Editor's Choice AprilSubmitted by editor on 8 April 2016.
The two papers selected as Editor’s choice of this April issue illustrate the versatility of the use of Ecological networks to advance our understanding of ecological systems. Dalla Riva and Stouffer take a modeling approach to study food web backbone evolution using functional traits. The authors used random dot-product graph models (RDPG) to model observed foodwebs and extend food-web modelling beyond the limitations of current deterministic or partially probabilistic models. Their approach enables the identification of the pairwise-distance structure given by species' functional food-web traits, which in turn allows for the natural emergence of ecologically meaningful species groups and to measure the phylogenetic signal present in food webs.
The second EC paper, by Encinas-Viso et al., focusses on very localized spatial scale and takes an empirical approach to study co-occurrence networks between plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). The symbiotic interaction between plants and AMF is well-known for its role in ecosystem functioning but the assembly of plant-AMF communities is poorly understood. The authors studied a plant-AMF spatial co-occurrence network using a unique set of spatially explicit data and applied three null models. The authors show that a combination of spatial organization and stochasticity is sufficient to reproduce much of the organization of co-occurrence networks formed by plants and their associated AMF, with a large role for stochasticity. The authors conclude that random encounters appear to drive the assembly of plant-AMF communities.
Gerlinde B. De Deyn, DEiC, Oikos
Editor's Choice papers are free to read online all through April!