Deciphering the interdependence between ecological and evolutionary networks

Melián,Carlos J.;Matthews,Blake;de Andreazzi,Cecilia S.;Rodríguez,Jorge P.;Harmon,Luke J.;Fortuna,Miguel A.
Trends in Ecology & Evolution 33, 504-512 (2018)

We build on recent studies to show how hierarchical networks can provide a framework for improving the study of the interplay between ecological and evolutionary processes.
In this framework, interaction strength between species depends on ecological and evolutionary processes underlying complex traits and trait distributions, intraspecific niche width, and the interaction with either common or rare phenotypes.
This approach illustrates broad classes of interactions between complex trait distributions and trait change and the complexity and stability of ecological networks.
Biological systems consist of elements that interact within and across hierarchical levels. For example, interactions among genes determine traits of individuals, competitive and cooperative interactions among individuals influence population dynamics, and interactions among species affect the dynamics of communities and ecosystem processes. Such systems can be represented as hierarchical networks, but can have complex dynamics when interdependencies among levels of the hierarchy occur. We propose integrating ecological and evolutionary processes in hierarchical networks to explore interdependencies in biological systems. We connect gene networks underlying predator–prey trait distributions to food webs. Our approach addresses longstanding questions about how complex traits and intraspecific trait variation affect the interdependencies among biological levels and the stability of meta-ecosystems.

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