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AbstractSpecies interaction networks are subject to natural and anthropogenic disturbances that lead to their disassembly, while natural regeneration or restoration efforts facilitate their reassembly. Previous models for assembling ecological networks did not include stochasticity at the level of population dynamics (e.g., demographic noise, environmental noise) and focused mainly on food webs. Here, we present a model for the assembly of mutualistic bipartite networks, such as plant-pollinator networks, and examine the influence of demographic noise on the trajectory of species and strategy diversity, that is, the range of present strategies from specialism to generalism. We find that assembled communities show at intermediate assembly stages a maximum of species diversity and of average generalization. Our model thus provides a mechanism for nonlinear, hump-shaped diversity trajectories at intermediate succession, consistent with the intermediate disturbance hypothesis. Long-term coexistence of specialists and generalists emerges only in the presence of demographic noise and is due to a persistent species turnover. These findings highlight the importance of stochasticity for maintaining long-term diversity.

Citation

Lara Becker, Nico Blüthgen, Barbara Drossel. Stochasticity Leads to Coexistence of Generalists and Specialists in Assembling Mutualistic Communities. The American naturalist. 2022 Sep;200(3):303-315

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PMID: 35977788

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