BioND — Dynamics of Biological Networks

Spatial effects in meta-foodwebs

Edmund Barter and Thilo Gross
Scientific Reports 7, 8890, 2017.



In ecology it is widely recognised that many landscapes comprise a network of discrete patches of habitat. The species that inhabit the patches interact with each other through a network of feeding interactions, a foodweb. The meta-food-web model proposed by Pillai et al. combines the feeding relationships at each patch with the dispersal of species between patches, such that the whole system is represented by a network of networks. Previous work on meta-food-webs has focussed on landscape networks that do not have an explicit spatial embedding, but in real landscapes the patches are usually distributed in space. Here we compare the dispersal of a meta-food-web on ER networks, that do not have a spatial embedding, and random geometric networks, that do have a spatial embedding. We found that local structure and large network distances in spatially embedded networks, lead to meso-scale patterns of patch occupation by both specialist and omnivorous species. In particular we found that spatial separations makes coexistence of competing species more likely. Our results highlight the effects of spatial embeddings for meta-food-web models, and the need for new analytical approaches to them.