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Positive complexity-stability relations in food web models without foraging adaptation. (English) Zbl 1402.92424
Summary: R. M. May’s [“Will a large complex system be stable?”, Nature 238, 413–414 (1972; doi:10.1038/238413a0)] local stability analysis of random food web models showed that increasing network complexity leads to decreasing stability, a result that is contradictory to earlier empirical findings. Since this seminal work, research of complexity-stability relations became one of the most challenging issues in theoretical ecology. We investigate conditions for positive complexity-stability relations in the niche, cascade, nested hierarchy, and random models by evaluating the network robustness, i.e., the fraction of surviving species after population dynamics. We find that positive relations between robustness and complexity can be obtained when resources are large, Holling II functional response is used and interaction strengths are weighted with the number of prey species, in order to take foraging efforts into account. In order to obtain these results, no foraging dynamics needs to be included. However, the niche model does not show positive complexity-stability relations under these conditions. By comparing to empirical food web data, we show that the niche model has unrealistic distributions of predator numbers. When this distribution is randomized, positive complexity-stability relations can be found also in the niche model.

92D40 Ecology
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