Human impacts on multiple ecological networks act synergistically to drive ecosystem collapse

Authors

  • Alfonso Valiente-Banuet,

    Corresponding author
    1. Departamento de Ecología de la Biodiversidad, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México DF, México
    2. Centro de Ciencias de la Complejidad, Ciudad Universitaria, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México DF, México
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  • Miguel Verdú

    1. Centro de Investigaciones sobre Desertificación (CSIC-UV-GV), Carretera Moncada–Náquera, Valencia, Spain
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Abstract

Highly biodiverse ecosystems worldwide are rapidly losing species diversity as a result of human overexploitation of natural resources. However, it is not known whether there is a critical threshold of species loss at which an ecosystem fails to recover, leading to its collapse. By combining multiple ecological networks (including facilitation, pollination, and seed dispersal) into a realistic scenario, we document how an ecosystem may collapse through synergistic disruptions to those networks. Although the interdependence of different ecological networks is indicative of ecosystem fragility and low resilience, our findings may improve environmental remediation efforts, thereby helping to bridge the gap between the disciplines of ecology and conservation biology.

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