Linking structure and function in food webs : maximization of different ecological functions generates distinct food web structures

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Date
2016
Authors
Yen, Jian D. L.
Cabral, Reniel B.
Hatton, Ian
Kortsch, Susanne
Patrício, Joana
Yamamichi, Masato
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The Journal of Animal Ecology ; 85 (2016), 2. - pp. 537-547. - Wiley. - ISSN 0021-8790. - eISSN 1365-2656
Abstract
1. Trophic interactions are central to ecosystem functioning, but the link between food web structure and ecosystem functioning remains obscure. Regularities (i.e. consistent patterns) in food web structure suggest the possibility of regularities in ecosystem functioning, which might be used to relate structure to function.

2. We introduce a novel, genetic algorithm approach to simulate food webs with maximized throughput (a proxy for ecosystem functioning) and compare the structure of these simulated food webs to real empirical food webs using common metrics of food web structure. We repeat this analysis using robustness to secondary extinctions (a proxy for ecosystem resilience) instead of throughput to determine the relative contributions of ecosystem functioning and ecosystem resilience to food web structure.

3. Simulated food webs that maximized robustness were similar to real food webs when connectance (i.e. levels of interaction across the food web) was high, but this result did not extend to food webs with low connectance. Simulated food webs that maximized throughput or a combination of throughput and robustness were not similar to any real food webs.

4. Simulated maximum-throughput food webs differed markedly from maximum-robustness food webs, which suggests that maximizing different ecological functions can generate distinct food web structures. Based on our results, food web structure would appear to have a stronger relationship with ecosystem resilience than with ecosystem throughput.

5. Our genetic algorithm approach is general and is well suited to large, realistically complex food webs. Genetic algorithms can incorporate constraints on structure and can generate outputs that can be compared directly to empirical data. Our method can be used to explore a range of maximization or minimization hypotheses, providing new perspectives on the links between structure and function in ecological systems.
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Subject (DDC)
570 Biosciences, Biology
Keywords
biodiversity, ecological networks, ecosystem functioning, ecosystem resilience, genetic algorithm, secondary extinctions, total system throughput, trophic interactions
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Cite This
ISO 690YEN, Jian D. L., Reniel B. CABRAL, Mauricio CANTOR, Ian HATTON, Susanne KORTSCH, Joana PATRÍCIO, Masato YAMAMICHI, 2016. Linking structure and function in food webs : maximization of different ecological functions generates distinct food web structures. In: The Journal of Animal Ecology. Wiley. 85(2), pp. 537-547. ISSN 0021-8790. eISSN 1365-2656. Available under: doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12484
BibTex
@article{Yen2016-03Linki-50132,
  year={2016},
  doi={10.1111/1365-2656.12484},
  title={Linking structure and function in food webs : maximization of different ecological functions generates distinct food web structures},
  number={2},
  volume={85},
  issn={0021-8790},
  journal={The Journal of Animal Ecology},
  pages={537--547},
  author={Yen, Jian D. L. and Cabral, Reniel B. and Cantor, Mauricio and Hatton, Ian and Kortsch, Susanne and Patrício, Joana and Yamamichi, Masato}
}
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    <dcterms:abstract xml:lang="eng">1. Trophic interactions are central to ecosystem functioning, but the link between food web structure and ecosystem functioning remains obscure. Regularities (i.e. consistent patterns) in food web structure suggest the possibility of regularities in ecosystem functioning, which might be used to relate structure to function.&lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;2. We introduce a novel, genetic algorithm approach to simulate food webs with maximized throughput (a proxy for ecosystem functioning) and compare the structure of these simulated food webs to real empirical food webs using common metrics of food web structure. We repeat this analysis using robustness to secondary extinctions (a proxy for ecosystem resilience) instead of throughput to determine the relative contributions of ecosystem functioning and ecosystem resilience to food web structure.&lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;3. Simulated food webs that maximized robustness were similar to real food webs when connectance (i.e. levels of interaction across the food web) was high, but this result did not extend to food webs with low connectance. Simulated food webs that maximized throughput or a combination of throughput and robustness were not similar to any real food webs.&lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;4. Simulated maximum-throughput food webs differed markedly from maximum-robustness food webs, which suggests that maximizing different ecological functions can generate distinct food web structures. Based on our results, food web structure would appear to have a stronger relationship with ecosystem resilience than with ecosystem throughput.&lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;5. Our genetic algorithm approach is general and is well suited to large, realistically complex food webs. Genetic algorithms can incorporate constraints on structure and can generate outputs that can be compared directly to empirical data. Our method can be used to explore a range of maximization or minimization hypotheses, providing new perspectives on the links between structure and function in ecological systems.</dcterms:abstract>
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