Using species traits to predict secondary extinctions during food web disassembly
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Global change keeps pushing species towards extinction which results in altered structures of ecological communities. Consequently, the loss of certain species can trigger a cascade of secondary extinctions resulting in further degradation of the system. The importance of species for upholding the structure of communities may be linked to the traits of species. However, due to the altered structure of communities following species loss, the importance of species (and species traits) may change as the structure of the food web change. Using a dynamical approach and simulating species loss in complex model communities we analyze the potential importance of 11 species traits. We find that the most important trait varies for different degree of food web collapse and food web connectance. Though, as the most important traits of species usually are correlated we conclude that the importance of species traits is rather robust against structural changes in the communities (especially when only consumer species are targets of primarily extinctions). Interestingly, food webs display a collapse threshold (after the initial loss of approximately 25% of all species) from which secondary extinctions increases. Finally, consider only the loss of consumer species, the effect (number of secondary extinctions) on community structure caused by a large perturbation (species loss) is positively correlated to the response of food webs resulting from a small perturbation to the same species.
Community structure, extinction sequence, food webs, species loss, community robustness
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-88052OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-88052DiVA: diva2:601419