The Royal Society

Supplementary material from "The fundamental benefits of multiplexity in ecological networks"

Posted on 2022-09-09 - 04:31
A tipping point presents perhaps the single most significant threat to an ecological system as it can lead to abrupt species extinction on a massive scale. Climate changes leading to the species decay parameter drifts can drive various ecological systems towards a tipping point. We investigate the tipping-point dynamics in multilayer ecological networks supported by mutualism. We unveil a natural mechanism by which the occurrence of tipping points can be delayed by multiplexity that broadly describes the diversity of the species abundances, the complexity of the interspecific relationships, and the topology of linkages in ecological networks. For a double-layer system of pollinators and plants, coupling between the network layers occurs when there is dispersal of pollinator species. Multiplexity emerges as the dispersing species establish their presence in the destination layer and have a simultaneous presence in both. We demonstrate that the new mutualistic links induced by the dispersing species with the residence species have fundamental benefits to the well-being of the ecosystem in delaying the tipping point and facilitating species recovery. Articulating and implementing control mechanisms to induce multiplexity can thus help sustain certain types of ecosystems that are in danger of extinction as the result of environmental changes.


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