Don't forget the kids - in ecological networks

Submitted by editor on 12 June 2018.Get the paper!

As every child knows, plants grow from seeds and became adult through their lifetime. But when studying at ecological networks involving plants, we ecologists often look only at adult plants, hence overlooking a fundamental aspect of plants life such as seeds. We therefore do not know how ecological networks are organised over the course of an organism’s lifetime.

This understanding is crucial for predicting the dynamics of interacting populations and communities across temporal scales. In this study we explored how life history stages such as seeds and adult plants contribute to the development and stability of plant multilayer networks.

Our results show that life history and ontogeny affect the development of plant networks. Assembly of the seed community is stochastic while adult plants establishment is deterministic. With this study we also highlight the importance of mature plant communities for maintaining rare species populations and supporting the stability of ecological communities through time.

The authors through Gianalberto Losapio