Network Interactions in Ecological Communities

Science  21 Apr 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5772, pp. 333h
DOI: 10.1126/science.312.5772.333h

Most studies on coevolution and mutualism between plants and animals have focused on interactions between pairs of species and ignore the wider network of interactions at the level of the ecological community. To fill this gap, Bascompte et al. (p. 431; see the Perspective by Thompson) analyzed a large set of coevolved networks, drawing on data from the tropics to the poles, to assess their structure and the implications for their stability and coevolution. Mutualistic networks are dominated by weak, asymmetric interactions, in which one partner in each mutualism depends strongly on the other while the other is only weakly dependent. This network structure confers stability to the wider ecological community.

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