Ecology Letters (2012)
Several network properties have been identified as determinants of the stability and complexity of mutualistic networks. However, it is unclear which mechanisms give rise to these network properties. Phenology seems important, because it shapes the topology of mutualistic networks, but its effects on the dynamics of mutualistic networks have scarcely been studied. Here, we study these effects with a general dynamical model of mutualistic and competitive interactions where the interaction strength depends on the temporal overlap between species resulting from their phenologies. We find a negative complexity–stability relationship, where phenologies maximising mutualistic interactions and minimising intraguild competitive interactions generate speciose, nested and poorly connected networks with moderate asymmetry and low resilience. Moreover, lengthening the season increases diversity and resilience. This highlights the fragility of real mutualistic communities with short seasons (e.g. Arctic environments) to drastic environmental changes.