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Open Access item Compartmentalization increases food-web persistence

Authors:Stouffer, Daniel B.
Bascompte, Jordi
Keywords:complex networks, modularity, species dynamics
Issue Date:Mar-2011
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)
Citation:PNAS March 1, 2011 vol. 108 no. 9 :3648–3652
Abstract:It has recently been noted that empirical food webs are significantly compartmentalized; that is, subsets of species exist that interact more frequently among themselves than with other species in the community. Although the dynamic implications of compartmentalization have been debated for at least four decades, a general answer has remained elusive. Here, we unambiguously demonstrate that compartmentalization acts to increase the persistence of multitrophic food webs. We then identify the mechanisms behind this result. Compartments in food webs act directly to buffer the propagation of extinctions throughout the community and augment the long-term persistence of its constituent species. This contribution to persistence is greater the more complex the food web, which helps to reconcile the simultaneous complexity and stability of natural communities.
Publisher version (URL):www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1014353108
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