Biodiversity in model ecosystems, II: species assembly and food web structure

J Theor Biol. 2005 Aug 21;235(4):531-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2005.02.006. Epub 2005 Mar 23.


This is the second of two papers dedicated to the relationship between population models of competition and biodiversity. Here, we consider species assembly models where the population dynamics is kept far from fixed points through the continuous introduction of new species, and generalize to such models the coexistence condition derived for systems at the fixed point. The ecological overlap between species and shared preys, that we define here, provides a quantitative measure of the effective interspecies competition and of the trophic network topology. We obtain distributions of the overlap from simulations of a new model based both on immigration and speciation, and show that they are in good agreement with those measured for three large natural food webs. As discussed in the first paper, rapid environmental fluctuations, interacting with the condition for coexistence of competing species, limit the maximal biodiversity that a trophic level can host. This horizontal limitation to biodiversity is here combined with either dissipation of energy or growth of fluctuations, which in our model limit the length of food webs in the vertical direction. These ingredients yield an effective model of food webs that produce a biodiversity profile with a maximum at an intermediate trophic level, in agreement with field studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Food Chain*
  • Models, Biological
  • Population Dynamics