Understanding food-web persistence


Wednesdays@NICO Seminar, Noon, May 12 2010, Chambers Hall, Lower Level

Prof. Daniel Stouffer, Integrative Ecology Group, Estación Biológica de Doñana


A better understanding of the features that contribute to the stability and persistence of an ecological community is critical for efforts to maintain biodiversity. The study of food webs, the network of trophic interactions in an ecosystem, provides a representational manner to investigate many questions regarding whole ecosystem behavior. In the past decades, scientists have begun to develop a clear picture of the key components which explain empirical food-web structure. Nevertheless, the dynamic implications of many of the structural features remains to be examined. We combine recently-developed models for food-web structure and a bioenergetic consumer-resource model for food-web dynamics to understand the role of food-web structure in a community's ability to respond to perturbations, such as species extinctions. Throughout our investigations we find an intriguing pattern. The architecture of empirical food webs significantly increases their persistence, helping to reconcile the simultaneous complexity and stability of natural communities.