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Diversity of Interaction Types and Ecological Community Stability

Science  20 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6092, pp. 349-351
DOI: 10.1126/science.1220529

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Abstract

Ecological theory predicts that a complex community formed by a number of species is inherently unstable, guiding ecologists to identify what maintains species diversity in nature. Earlier studies often assumed a community with only one interaction type, either an antagonistic, competitive, or mutualistic interaction, leaving open the question of what the diversity of interaction types contributes to the community maintenance. We show theoretically that the multiple interaction types might hold the key to understanding community dynamics. A moderate mixture of antagonistic and mutualistic interactions can stabilize population dynamics. Furthermore, increasing complexity leads to increased stability in a “hybrid” community. We hypothesize that the diversity of species and interaction types may be the essential element of biodiversity that maintains ecological communities.

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