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Topological Properties of Food Webs: From Real Data to Community Assembly Models


  • José M. Montoya
  • Ricard V. Solé


We explore patterns of trophic connections between species in the largest and highest-quality empirical food webs to date, introducing a new topological prop- erty called the degree distribution, defined as the frequency of species SL with L links. Non-trivial differences are shown in degree distributions between species-rich and species-poor communities, which might have important consequences for ecosys- tems' responses to disturbances. Species richness-connectance (SC) and number of links-species richness (LS) relationships observed provide no support for the theory of LS scaling law or constant connectance for food webs. We further explore these observations by means of simulated food webs resulting from random multitrophic assembly models. SC and LS relationships of real food webs are reproduced, but degree distributions are not properly predicted. The best agreement between em- pirical and simulated webs occurs when weak interaction strengths between species govern food web dynamics.

Suggested Citation

  • José M. Montoya & Ricard V. Solé, 2001. "Topological Properties of Food Webs: From Real Data to Community Assembly Models," Working Papers 01-11-069, Santa Fe Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:01-11-069

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cohen, Joel E. & Hajnal, John & Newman, Charles M., 1986. "Approaching consensus can be delicate when positions harden," Stochastic Processes and their Applications, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 315-322, July.
    2. Follmer, Hans, 1974. "Random economies with many interacting agents," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 51-62, March.
    3. Orlean, Andre, 1995. "Bayesian interactions and collective dynamics of opinion: Herd behavior and mimetic contagion," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 257-274, October.
    4. H. Peyton Young & Mary A. Burke, 2001. "Competition and Custom in Economic Contracts: A Case Study of Illinois Agriculture," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 559-573, June.
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    More about this item


    Food webs; ecological assembly models; degree distributions; scale-variant properties; community fragility; weak interaction strengths;

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