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Diversity in a complex ecological network with two interaction types


  • Carlos J. Melián,

  • Jordi Bascompte,

  • Pedro Jordano,

  • Vlastimil Krivan

C. J. Melián (, J. Bascompte and P. Jordano, Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC, Apdo. 1056, ES–41080 Sevilla, Spain. – CJM and V. Krivan, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Univ. of California at Santa Barbara, 735 State St., Suite 300, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA. VK also at: Dept of Theoretical Ecology, Inst. of Entomology, Biology Center AS CR, Branišovská 31, 37005 Ceské Budejovice, Czech Republic.


Most studies on ecological networks consider only a single interaction type (e.g. competitive, predatory or mutualistic), and try to developrules for system stability based exclusively on properties of this interaction type. However, the stability of ecological networks may be more dependent on the way different interaction types are combined in real communities. To address this issue, we start by compiling an ecological network in the Doñana Biological Reserve, southern Spain, with 390 species and 798 mu-tualistic and antagonistic interactions. We characterize network structure by looking at how mutualistic and antagonistic interactions are combined across all plant species. Both the ratio of mutualistic to antagonistic interactions per plant, and the number of basic modules with an antagonistic and a mutualistic interaction are very heterogeneous across plant species, with a few plant species showing very high values for these parameters. To assess the implications of these network patterns on species diversity, we study analytically and by simulation a model of this ecological network. We find that the observed correlation between strong interaction strengths and high mutualistic to antagonistic ratios in a few plant species significantly increases community diversity. Thus, to predict the persistence of biodiversity we need to understand how interaction strength and the architecture of ecological networks with different interaction types are combined.