Strong contributors to network persistence are the most vulnerable to extinction

Serguei Saavedra, Daniel B. Stouffer, Brian Uzzi, Jordi Bascompte*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations

Abstract

The architecture of mutualistic networks facilitates coexistence of individual participants by minimizing competition relative to facilitation. However, it is not known whether this benefit is received by each participant node in proportion to its overall contribution to network persistence. This issue is critical to understanding the trade-offs faced by individual nodes in a network. We address this question by applying a suite of structural and dynamic methods to an ensemble of flowering plant/insect pollinator networks. Here we report two main results. First, nodes contribute heterogeneously to the overall nested architecture of the network. From simulations, we confirm that the removal of a strong contributor tends to decrease overall network persistence more than the removal of a weak contributor. Second, strong contributors to collective persistence do not gain individual survival benefits but are in fact the nodes most vulnerable to extinction. We explore the generality of these results to other cooperative networks by analysing a 15-year time series of the interactions between designer and contractor firms in the New York City garment industry. As with the ecological networks, a firm's survival probability decreases as its individual nestedness contribution increases. Our results, therefore, introduce a new paradox into the study of the persistence of cooperative networks, and potentially address questions about the impact of invasive species in ecological systems and new competitors in economic systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-235
Number of pages3
JournalNature
Volume478
Issue number7368
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 13 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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