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Complexity and Fragility in Ecological Networks


  • Ricard V. Solé
  • José M. Montoya


A detailed analysis of three species-rich ecosystem food webs has shown that they display scale-free distributions of connections. Such graphs of interaction are in fact shared by a number of biological and technological networks, which have been shown to display a very high homeostasis against random removals of nodes. Here we analyse the response of these ecological graphs to both random and selective perturbations (directed to most connected species). Our results suggest that ecological networks are extremely robust against random removal but very fragile when selective attacks are used. These observations can have important consequences for biodiversity dynamics and conservation issues, current estimations of extinction rates and the relevance and definition of keystone species.

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  • Ricard V. Solé & José M. Montoya, 2000. "Complexity and Fragility in Ecological Networks," Working Papers 00-11-060, Santa Fe Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:00-11-060

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gernot Grabher & Walter W. Powell (ed.), 2004. "Networks," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, volume 0, number 2771.
    2. W. Fontana & P. Schuster, 1998. "Shaping Space: The Possible and the Attainable in RNA Genotype-Phenotype Mapping," Working Papers ir98004, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
    3. Peter Schuster, 2000. "Molecular Insights into Evolution of Phenotypes," Working Papers 00-02-013, Santa Fe Institute.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wezel, Filippo Carlo, 2002. "Why do organizational populations die? : evidence from the Belgian motorcycle industry, 1900-1993," Research Report 02G38, University of Groningen, Research Institute SOM (Systems, Organisations and Management).
    2. Matutinovic, Igor, 2001. "The aspects and the role of diversity in socioeconomic systems: an evolutionary perspective," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 239-256, November.
    3. Matutinovic, Igor, 2002. "Organizational patterns of economies: an ecological perspective," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 421-440, March.
    4. Ramon Ferrer i Cancho & Ricard V. Solé, 2001. "The Small-World of Human Language," Working Papers 01-03-016, Santa Fe Institute.

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