NCEAS Project 12062

Reverse engineering of ecological networks: From the disassembly to the construction of robust networks

  • Stefano Allesina

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Postdoctoral Fellow1st September 2007—31st August 2009Participant List  

Abstract
Molecular biologists study how a gene works in an organism by switching it off, engineers try to replicate the functioning of a device by taking it apart and studying how its components are wired together, archaeologists reconstruct ancient machinery by examining fragments buried for centuries: these are all examples of reverse engineering. This approach is usually precluded to ecologists given the potentially dramatic consequences of disturbing ecosystems, except in mathematical models and ‘in silico’ simulations of scenarios. I intend to study the patterns of secondary extinctions in ecological networks using mathematical and simulation models. In particular, I will try to identify which building blocks or network motifs confer robustness to ecological systems. The research on networks robustness has been so far dominated by the study of ‘hubs’ or most connected species, and has typically included only static analyses. I will focus not only on predator-prey interactions, but also on other major constituents of ecological networks, such as parasitism, pollination and mutualism in a dynamic context, with the ultimate goal of understanding how to assemble robust networks. The ‘hubs’ based approach will be substituted by a functional approach in which the relative importance of the components of a network is explicitly evaluated.

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Report or White Paper Allesina, Stefano; Bodini, Antonio. 2007. Ascendency. Edited by Jorgensen, S.E. Encyclopedia of Ecology. Elsevier.
Report or White Paper Allesina, Stefano. 2007. Cycling and Cycling Indices. Edited by Jorgensen, S.E. Encyclopedia of Ecology. Elsevier.
Journal Article Allesina, Stefano; Alonso, David; Pascual, Mercedes. 2008. A general model for food web structure. Science. Vol: 320. Pages 658-661.
Presentations Allesina, Stefano. 2008. Googling food webs: Measuring species' importance in food webs. Ecological Society of America 93rd Annual Meeting, 4 August 2008. Milwaukee, WI.
Journal Article Allesina, Stefano; Pascual, Mercedes. 2008. Network structure, predator-prey modules, and stability in large food webs. Theoretical Ecology. Vol: 1. Pages 55-64.
Presentations Allesina, Stefano. 2008. Stability in ecological networks: Large effects ofsmall motifs. University of Chicago, Invited Talk.
Presentations Allesina, Stefano. 2008. The spider and the web: Inference in ecological networks. Early Career Scientist Symposium Invited Talk, University of Michigan. Ann Arbor, MI.
Presentations Allesina, Stefano. 2008. The spider and the web: the structure, robustness and dynamics of ecological networks. University of Chicago Computer Science Department, 16 April 2008. Chicago, IL.
Presentations Allesina, Stefano. 2009. A prelude and three fugues on groups in ecological networks. NCEAS Ecolunch, 9 April 2009. Santa Barbara.
Report or White Paper Allesina, Stefano. 2009. Book review: Learning R the practical way. Ecology. Vol: 90(8). Pages 2335-2336.
Journal Article Allesina, Stefano; Pascual, Mercedes. 2009. Food web models: A plea for groups. Ecology Letters. Vol: 12(7). Pages 652-662.
Journal Article Allesina, Stefano; Bodini, Antonio; Pascual, Mercedes. 2009. Functional links and robustness in food webs. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences. Vol: 364. Pages 1701-1709.
Journal Article Allesina, Stefano; Pascual, Mercedes. 2009. Googling food webs: Can an eigenvector measure species' importance for coextinctions?. PLoS Computational Biology. Vol: 5(9). Pages 1-6.
Journal Article Allesina, Stefano; Levine, Jonathan M. 2011. A competitive network theory of species diversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vol: 108. Pages 5638-5642.
Journal Article Allesina, Stefano. 2011. Predicting trophic relations in ecological networks: A test of the Allometric Diet Breadth Model. Journal of Theoretical Biology. Vol: 279. Pages 161-168. (Online version)
Journal Article Bodini, Antonio; Bellingeri, Michele; Allesina, Stefano; Bondavalli, Cristina. 2009. Using food web dominator trees to catch secondary extinctions in action. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences. Vol: 364. Pages 1725-1731.
Journal Article Dobson, Andrew P.; Allesina, Stefano; Lafferty, Kevin D.; Pascual, Mercedes. 2009. The assembly, collapse and restoration of food webs. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences. Vol: 364. Pages 1803-1806. (Online version)
Journal Article Lafferty, Kevin D.; Allesina, Stefano; Arim, Matias; Briggs, Cheryl J.; De Leo, Giulio; Dobson, Andrew P.; Dunne, Jennifer A.; Johnson, Pieter; Kuris, Armand; Marcogliese, David J.; Martinez, Neo; Memmott, Jane; Marquet, Pablo A.; McLaughlin, John; Mordecai, Erin A.; Pascual, Mercedes; Poulin, Robert; Thieltges, David. 2008. Parasites in food webs: The ultimate missing links. Ecology Letters. Vol: 11. Pages 533-546.
Journal Article Melian, Carlos J.; Alonso, David; Allesina, Stefano; Condit, Richard; Etienne, Rampal S. 2012. Does sex speed up evolutionary rate and increase biodiversity?. PLoS Computational Biology. Vol: 8(3). Pages e1002414-e1002414. (Online version)
Journal Article Scotti, Marco; Bondavalli, Cristina; Bodini, Antonio; Allesina, Stefano. 2009. Using trophic hierarchy to understand food web structure. Oikos. Vol: 118. Pages 1695-1702.