Title: Environmental change makes robust ecological networks fragile
Citation: NATURE COMMUNICATIONS vol. 7 p. 12462
Publication Year: 2016
JRC N°: JRC101667
ISSN: 2041-1723
URI: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2016/160811/ncomms12462/full/ncomms12462.html
DOI: 10.1038/ncomms12462
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Ecological networks seem to persist after primary extinctions, suggesting that despite its complexity, nature is robust. One explanation for network robustness is that consumers don’t specialize on risky resources. However, modifications to the conditions where the network has evolved might alter resource dependability. We asked if adaptation to historical conditions can increase community robustness, and if such robustness can protect communities from collapse when conditions change. We first evolved digital consumer-resource networks that we then subjected to rapid environmental change. Second, we investigated how real host-parasite networks would respond to historical, random, and expected extinction sequences. In both cases, networks were far more robust to historical conditions than new ones, suggesting that new environmental challenges, as expected under global change, might collapse otherwise robust natural ecosystems.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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