A classic measure of ecological stability describes the tendency of a community to return to equilibrium after small perturbations. While many advances show how the network architecture of these communities severely constrains such tendencies, one of the most fundamental properties of network structure, i.e. degree heterogeneity—the variability of the number of links associated with each species, deserves further study. Here we show that the effects of degree heterogeneity on stability vary with different types of interspecific interactions. Degree heterogeneity consistently destabilizes ecological networks with both competitive and mutualistic interactions, while its effects on networks of predator–prey interactions such as food webs depend on prey contiguity, i.e. the extent to which the species consume an unbroken sequence of prey in community niche space. Increasing degree heterogeneity tends to stabilize food webs except those with the highest prey contiguity. These findings help explain why food webs are highly but not completely interval and, more broadly, deepen our understanding of the stability of complex ecological networks.
|Date made available||2017|