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Robustness of rigid and adaptive networks to species loss

Nuwagaba, Savannah ; Zhang, Feng ; Hui, Cang (2017)

CITATION: Nuwagaba, S., Zhang, F. & Hui, C. 2017. Robustness of rigid and adaptive networks to species loss. PLoS ONE 12(12): e0189086, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0189086.

The original publication is available at


Controversies in the complexity-stability debate have been attributed to the methodologies used such as topological vs. dynamical approaches or rigid vs. adaptive foraging behaviour of species. Here, we use a bipartite network model that incorporates both topological and population dynamics to investigate the robustness of 60 real ecological networks to the loss of generalist and specialist species. We compare the response in both adaptive and rigid networks. Our results show that the removal of generalists leads to the most secondary extinctions, implying that conservation strategies should aim to protect generalist species in the ecosystem. We also show that adaptive behaviour renders networks vulnerable to species loss at initial stages but enhances long term stability of the system. However, whether adaptive networks are more robust to species loss than rigid ones depends on the structure of the network. Specifically, adaptive networks with modularity < 0.3 are more robust than rigid networks of the same modularity. Interestingly, the more modular a network is, the less robust it is to external perturbations.

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