Robustness of Plant-Pollinator Mutualistic Networks to Phenological Mismatches

Payrató, Claudia (Supervisor: Ramasco, J.J.)
Master Thesis (2016)

Mutualistic interactions conform the skeleton of many systems widespread in nature, with abundant examples ranging rom the economical context to the biological world. The paradigmatic case of study -and ours- is ecological networks. The singular composition of their interactions is known to exhibit unique resilient features, playing a critical role to the preservation of earth's biodiversity and ecosystem's robustness. However, the extent to which the so-called mutualistic networks might be affected by global change has still not been well-established. Accordingly, in this Master Thesis we attempt to measure the robustness of a plant-pollinator community to shifts in their life cycles (phenologies). By borrowing tools from population dynamics and statistical mechanics, we characterise a phase transition triggered by phenological noise in a non-spatially extended model. Our results suggest the existence of a second order non-equilibrium phase transition. Moreover, simulations on an empirically-based network successfully reproduce some previously known ecological traits. All in all, many critical features attributed to second-order transitions such as scaling or universality remained to be asserted, thus demanding for further investigations.

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