TitleEstimating the effect of the reorganization of interactions on the adaptability of species to changing environments.
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsCenci S, Montero-Castaño A, Saavedra S
JournalJ Theor Biol
Date2018 Jan 21

A major challenge in community ecology is to understand how species respond to environmental changes. Previous studies have shown that the reorganization of interactions among co-occurring species can modulate their chances to adapt to novel environmental conditions. Moreover, empirical evidence has shown that these ecological dynamics typically facilitate the persistence of groups of species rather than entire communities. However, so far, we have no systematic methodology to identify those groups of species with the highest or lowest chances to adapt to new environments through a reorganization of their interactions. Yet, this could prove extremely valuable for developing new conservation strategies. Here, we introduce a theoretical framework to estimate the effect of the reorganization of interactions on the adaptability of a group of species, within a community, to novel environmental conditions. We introduce the concept of the adaptation space of a group of species based on a feasibility analysis of a population dynamics model. We define the adaptation space of a group as the set of environmental conditions that can be made compatible with its persistence thorough the reorganization of interactions among species within the group. The larger the adaptation space of a group, the larger its likelihood to adapt to a novel environment. We show that the interactions in the community outside a group can act as structural constraints and be used to quantitatively compare the size of the adaptation space among different groups of species within a community. To test our theoretical framework, we perform a data analysis on several pairs of natural and artificially perturbed ecological communities. Overall, we find that the groups of species present in both control and perturbed communities are among the ones with the largest adaptation space. We believe that the results derived from our framework point out towards new directions to understand and estimate the adaptability of species to changing environments.

Alternate JournalJ. Theor. Biol.
PubMed ID29066113
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    Network and Community Ecology
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    <p>Professor Serguei Saavedra<br>Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory for Environmental Science and Engineering<br>Massachusetts Institute of Technology</p>
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    Structure and Feasibility of Ecological Communities

    "Environments and populations are dynamic and constantly changing, we must keep them both capable of further natural change" Rosemary Grant
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