The stability of ecosystems is a long-standing question in ecology. Ecological systems present
a remarkably robust diversity that can be hardly explained by theoretical models. Recently it
has been suggested that higher-order interactions – i.e. when three or more species compete at
the same time – may stabilize large competitive ecosystems. However, this particular
approach ignores that single individuals can compete in diverse ways with multiple partners,
whose identity can change not only in time but also in space.
In this work, we consider that space shapes individuals interactions and show that spatial
interactions allow competing individuals to reach coexistence without taking higher-order
interactions into account. We propose a spatially-structured model, in which each node of a
network is occupied by an individual of a single species. Individuals are linked with their
nearest neighbors upon a certain radius that modulates the range of interactions.
The influence of the space is considered through several networks models in order to
represent a broad range of spatial structures and interaction radius.
Our main result suggests that the structure of the interaction network plays a fundamental role
in shaping ecosystems dynamics. Spatially-correlated networks that only allow for short-
range interactions stabilize the system by suppressing oscillations in species abundances and
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