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Connecting higher‐order interactions with ecological stability in experimental aquatic food webs


Shen, Chenyu; Lemmen, Kimberley; Alexander, Jake; Pennekamp, Frank (2023). Connecting higher‐order interactions with ecological stability in experimental aquatic food webs. Ecology and Evolution, 13(9):e10502.

Abstract

Community ecology is built on theories that represent the strength of interactions between species as pairwise links. Higher‐order interactions (HOIs) occur when a species changes the pairwise interaction between a focal pair. Recent theoretical work has highlighted the stabilizing role of HOIs for large, simulated communities, yet it remains unclear how important higher‐order effects are in real communities. Here, we used experimental communities of aquatic protists to examine the relationship between HOIs and stability (as measured by the persistence of a species in a community). We cultured a focal pair of consumers in the presence of additional competitors and a predator and collected time series data of their abundances. We then fitted competition models with and without HOIs to measure interaction strength between the focal pair across different community compositions. We used survival analysis to measure the persistence of individual species. We found evidence that additional species positively affected persistence of the focal species and that HOIs were present in most of our communities. However, persistence was only linked to HOIs for one of the focal species. Our results vindicate community ecology theory positing that species interactions may deviate from assumptions of pairwise interactions, opening avenues to consider possible consequences for coexistence and stability.

Abstract

Community ecology is built on theories that represent the strength of interactions between species as pairwise links. Higher‐order interactions (HOIs) occur when a species changes the pairwise interaction between a focal pair. Recent theoretical work has highlighted the stabilizing role of HOIs for large, simulated communities, yet it remains unclear how important higher‐order effects are in real communities. Here, we used experimental communities of aquatic protists to examine the relationship between HOIs and stability (as measured by the persistence of a species in a community). We cultured a focal pair of consumers in the presence of additional competitors and a predator and collected time series data of their abundances. We then fitted competition models with and without HOIs to measure interaction strength between the focal pair across different community compositions. We used survival analysis to measure the persistence of individual species. We found evidence that additional species positively affected persistence of the focal species and that HOIs were present in most of our communities. However, persistence was only linked to HOIs for one of the focal species. Our results vindicate community ecology theory positing that species interactions may deviate from assumptions of pairwise interactions, opening avenues to consider possible consequences for coexistence and stability.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:590 Animals (Zoology)
570 Life sciences; biology
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Physical Sciences > Ecology
Physical Sciences > Nature and Landscape Conservation
Uncontrolled Keywords:Nature and Landscape Conservation, Ecology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:1 September 2023
Deposited On:12 Jan 2024 10:11
Last Modified:30 Jun 2024 01:36
Publisher:Wiley Open Access
ISSN:2045-7758
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.10502
PubMed ID:37693938
  • Content: Accepted Version
  • Language: English
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)