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Data from: Removing interactions, rather than species, casts doubt on the high robustness of pollination networks

Citation

Santamaría, Silvia; Galeano, Javier; Pastor, Juan Manuel; Méndez, Marcos (2015), Data from: Removing interactions, rather than species, casts doubt on the high robustness of pollination networks, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.73520

Abstract

In the last 15 years, a complex networks perspective has been increasingly used in the robustness assessment of ecological systems. It is therefore crucial to assess the reliability of such tools. Based on the traditional simulation of node (species) removal, mutualistic pollination networks are considered to be relatively robust because of their 1) truncated power-law degree distribution, 2) redundancy in the number of pollinators per plant and 3) nested interaction pattern. However, species removal is only one of several possible approaches to network robustness assessment. Empirical evidence suggests a decline in abundance prior to the extinction of interacting species, arguing in favour of an interaction removal-based approach (i.e. interaction disruption), as opposed to traditional species removal. For simulated networks, these two approaches yield radically different conclusions, but no tests are currently available for empirical mutualistic networks. This study compared this new robustness evaluation approach based on interaction extinction versus the traditional species removal approach for 12 alpine and subalpine pollination networks. In comparison with species removal, interaction removal produced higher robustness in the worst-case extinction scenario but lower robustness in the best-case extinction scenario. Our results indicate that: 1) these two approaches yield very different conclusions and 2) existing assessments of ecological network robustness could be overly optimistic, at least those based on a disturbance affecting species at random or beginning with the least connected species. Therefore, further empirical study of plant–pollinator interactions in disturbed ecosystems is imperative to understand how pollination networks are disassembled.

Usage Notes

Location

Alpine and subalpine