Ranking species in mutualistic networks
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Nature Publishing Group
Theoretical ecologyComplexityEcological networks
Domínguez-García, V.; Muñoz, M.A. Ranking species in mutualistic networks. Scientific Reports, 5: 8182 (2014). [http://hdl.handle.net/10481/34872]
Understanding the architectural subtleties of ecological networks, believed to confer them enhanced stability and robustness, is a subject of outmost relevance. Mutualistic interactions have been profusely studied and their corresponding bipartite networks, such as plant-pollinator networks, have been reported to exhibit a characteristic “nested” structure. Assessing the importance of any given species in mutualistic networks is a key task when evaluating extinction risks and possible cascade effects. Inspired in a recently introduced algorithm –similar in spirit to Google's PageRank but with a built-in non-linearity– here we propose a method which –by exploiting their nested architecture– allows us to derive a sound ranking of species importance in mutualistic networks. This method clearly outperforms other existing ranking schemes and can become very useful for ecosystem management and biodiversity preservation, where decisions on what aspects of ecosystems to explicitly protect need to be made.