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      The multilayer nature of ecological networks

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      Nature Ecology & Evolution

      Springer Nature

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          The nested assembly of plant-animal mutualistic networks.

          Most studies of plant-animal mutualisms involve a small number of species. There is almost no information on the structural organization of species-rich mutualistic networks despite its potential importance for the maintenance of diversity. Here we analyze 52 mutualistic networks and show that they are highly nested; that is, the more specialist species interact only with proper subsets of those species interacting with the more generalists. This assembly pattern generates highly asymmetrical interactions and organizes the community cohesively around a central core of interactions. Thus, mutualistic networks are neither randomly assembled nor organized in compartments arising from tight, parallel specialization. Furthermore, nestedness increases with the complexity (number of interactions) of the network: for a given number of species, communities with more interactions are significantly more nested. Our results indicate a nonrandom pattern of community organization that may be relevant for our understanding of the organization and persistence of biodiversity.
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            Community Structure in Time-Dependent, Multiscale, and Multiplex Networks

            Network science is an interdisciplinary endeavor, with methods and applications drawn from across the natural, social, and information sciences. A prominent problem in network science is the algorithmic detection of tightly-connected groups of nodes known as communities. We developed a generalized framework of network quality functions that allowed us to study the community structure of arbitrary multislice networks, which are combinations of individual networks coupled through links that connect each node in one network slice to itself in other slices. This framework allows one to study community structure in a very general setting encompassing networks that evolve over time, have multiple types of links (multiplexity), and have multiple scales.
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              Stability of ecological communities and the architecture of mutualistic and trophic networks.

              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.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Ecology & Evolution
                Nat. ecol. evol.
                Springer Nature
                2397-334X
                March 23 2017
                March 23 2017
                : 1
                : 4
                : 0101
                Article
                10.1038/s41559-017-0101
                © 2017
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