Theory

Collective behaviour can stabilize ecosystems

Collective behaviour is common in bacteria, plants, and animals, and thus across ecosystems, from biofilms to cities. With collective behaviour, social interactions among individuals propagate to affect the behaviour of groups, while group-level …

The predictability of qualitative food web dynamics in response to extinction and invasion

Food webs are extraordinarily complex, containing myriad direct interactions and indirect effects. Determining how this network of interactions and effects influences a food web’s qualitative dynamics is a challenging task, especially because data …

Rapid and direct recoveries of predators and prey through synchronized ecosystem management

One of the twenty-first century’s greatest environmental challenges is to recover and restore species, habitats and ecosystems. The decision about how to initiate restoration is best-informed by an understanding of the linkages between ecosystem …

Characterizing species interactions to understand press perturbations: What is the community matrix?

The community matrix is among ecology's most important mathematical abstractions, formally encapsulating the interconnected network of effects that species have on one another's populations. Despite its importance, the term “community matrix” has …

Ecosystem context and historical contingency in apex predator recoveries

Habitat loss, overexploitation, and numerous other stressors have caused global declines in apex predators. This “trophic downgrading” has generated widespread concern because of the fundamental role that apex predators can play in ecosystem …

Effects of predator introductions on population and community dynamics

There is increasing awareness that human activities are altering the ways that natural systems operate and that local shifts in species composition and abundance can lead to abrupt and irreversible global change. Therefore, understanding the …

Selection on stability across ecological scales

Much of the focus in evolutionary biology has been on the adaptive differentiation among organisms. It is equally important to understand the processes that result in similarities of structure among systems. Here, we discuss examples of similarities …

Trophic omnivory across a productivity gradient: intraguild predation theory and the structure and strength of species interactions

Intraguild predation theory centres on two predictions: (i) for an omnivore and an intermediate predator (IG-prey) to coexist on shared resources, the IG-prey must be the superior resource competitor, and (ii) increasing resource productivity causes …

Probabilistic patterns of interaction: the effects of link-strength variability on food web structure

Patterns of species interactions affect the dynamics of food webs. An important component of species interactions that is rarely considered with respect to food webs is the strengths of interactions, which may affect both structure and dynamics. In …

Generalized modeling of ecological population dynamics

Over the past 7 years, several authors have used the approach of generalized modeling to study the dynamics of food chains and food webs. Generalized models come close to the efficiency of random matrix models, while being as directly interpretable …