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The spatial scaling of food web structure across European biogeographical regions / Núria Galiana, Ceres Barros, João Braga, Gentile Francesco Ficetola, Luigi Maiorano, Wilfried Thuiller, José M. Montoya, Miguel Lurgi Rivera
Ecography, Volume: 44, Issue: 5, Pages: 653 - 664
Swansea University Author: Miguel Lurgi Rivera
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The species–area relationship (SAR) is one of the most well-established scaling patterns in ecology. Its implications for understanding how communities change across spatial gradients are numerous, including the effects of habitat loss on biodiversity. However, ecological communities are not mere co...
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The species–area relationship (SAR) is one of the most well-established scaling patterns in ecology. Its implications for understanding how communities change across spatial gradients are numerous, including the effects of habitat loss on biodiversity. However, ecological communities are not mere collections of species. They are the result of interactions between these species forming complex networks that tie them together. Should we aim to grasp the spatial scaling of biodiversity as a whole, it is fundamental to understand the changes in the structure of interaction networks with area. In spite of a few empirical and theoretical studies that address this challenge, we still do not know much about how network structure changes with area, or what are the main environmental drivers of these changes. Here, using the meta-network of potential interactions between all terrestrial vertebrates in Europe (1140 species and 67 201 feeding interactions), we analysed network–area relationships (NARs) that summarize how network properties scale with area. We do this across ten biogeographical regions, which differ in environmental characteristics. We found that the spatial scaling of network complexity strongly varied across biogeographical regions. However, once the variation in SARs was accounted for, differences in the shape of NARs vanished. On the other hand, the proportion of species across trophic levels remained remarkably constant across biogeographical regions and spatial scales, despite the great variation in species richness. Spatial variation in mean annual temperature and habitat clustering were the main environmental determinants of the shape of both SARs and NARs across Europe. Our results suggest new avenues in the exploration of the effects of environmental factors on the spatial scaling of biodiversity. We argue that NARs can provide new insights to analyse and understand ecological communities.
food webs; geographical variation; metaweb; network–area relationship; spatial scale; species–area relationship; terrestrial vertebrate communities
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