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Am Nat. 2004 Jul;164(1):85-100. Epub 2004 Jun 7.

Dynamics of compartmented and reticulate food webs in relation to energetic flows.

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Department of Zoology, University of Toronto, 25 Harbord Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G5, Canada.


Using simple food webs, we address how the interactions of food web structure and energetic flows influence dynamics. We examine the effect of food web topologies with equivalent energetics (i.e., trophic interactions are equivalent at each trophic level), following which we vary energetic flows to include weak and strong interactions or nonequivalent energetics. In contrast to some work (Pimm 1979), we find that compartmented webs are more stable than reticulate webs. However, we find that nonequivalent energetics can stabilize previously unstable reticulate structures. It is not only weak flows that can be stabilizing but also the arrangement of the flows that emphasizes stabilizing mechanisms. We find that the main stabilizing mechanism is asynchrony, where structures and energetic arrangements that decrease synchrony such as internal segregation or competition will stabilize dynamics. Since compartments allow prey dynamics to behave somewhat independently, compartmentation readily promotes stability. In addition, these results can be scaled from simple food webs to more complex webs with many interacting subsystems so that linking weak subsystems to strong ones can stabilize dynamics. We show that food web dynamics are determined not only by topology but also the arrangement of weak and strong energetic flows.

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