Stability of ecological communities and the architecture of mutualistic and trophic networks

Science. 2010 Aug 13;329(5993):853-6. doi: 10.1126/science.1188321.


Research on the relationship between the architecture of ecological networks and community stability has mainly focused on one type of interaction at a time, making difficult any comparison between different network types. We used a theoretical approach to show that the network architecture favoring stability fundamentally differs between trophic and mutualistic networks. A highly connected and nested architecture promotes community stability in mutualistic networks, whereas the stability of trophic networks is enhanced in compartmented and weakly connected architectures. These theoretical predictions are supported by a meta-analysis on the architecture of a large series of real pollination (mutualistic) and herbivory (trophic) networks. We conclude that strong variations in the stability of architectural patterns constrain ecological networks toward different architectures, depending on the type of interaction.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Ecosystem*
  • Food Chain
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena*
  • Pollination*
  • Population Dynamics
  • Symbiosis*