Foraging Adaptation and the Relationship Between Food-Web Complexity and Stability

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Science  28 Feb 2003:
Vol. 299, Issue 5611, pp. 1388-1391
DOI: 10.1126/science.1079154

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Ecological theory suggests that complex food webs should not persist because of their inherent instability. “Real” ecosystems often support a large number of interacting species. A mathematical model shows that fluctuating short-term selection on trophic links, arising from a consumer's adaptive food choice, is a key to the long-term stability of complex communities. Without adaptive foragers, food-web complexity destabilizes community composition; whereas in their presence, complexity may enhance community persistence through facilitation of dynamical food-web reconstruction that buffers environmental fluctuations. The model predicts a linkage pattern consistent with field observations.

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