From Broadstone to Zackenberg

Olesen, Jens M.; Dupont, Yoko L.; O'Gorman, Eoin; Ings, Thomas C.; Layer, Katrin; Melian Penate, Carlos Javier; Trøjelsgaard, Kristian; Pichler, Doris E.; Rasmussen, Claus; Woodward, Guy (2010). From Broadstone to Zackenberg. In: Woodward, Guy (ed.) Ecological Networks. Advances in Ecological Research: Vol. 42 (pp. 1-69). Amsterdam: Elsevier 10.1016/B978-0-12-381363-3.00001-0

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Ecological networks are typically complex constructions of species and their interactions. During the last decade, the study of networks has moved from static to dynamic analyses, and has attained a deeper insight into their internal structure, heterogeneity, and temporal and spatial resolution. Here, we review, discuss and suggest research lines in the study of the spatio-temporal heterogeneity of networks and their hierarchical nature. We use case study data from two well-characterized model systems (the food web in Broadstone Stream in England and the pollination network at Zackenberg in Greenland), which are complemented with additional information from other studies. We focus upon eight topics: temporal dynamic space-for-time substitutions linkage constraints habitat borders network modularity individual-based networks invasions of networks and super networks that integrate different network types. Few studies have explicitly examined temporal change in networks, and we present examples that span from daily to decadal change: a common pattern that we see is a stable core surrounded by a group of dynamic, peripheral species, which, in pollinator networks enter the web via preferential linkage to the most generalist species. To some extent, temporal and spatial scales are interchangeable (i.e. networks exhibit ‘ergodicity’) and we explore how space-for-time substitutions can be used in the study of networks. Network structure is commonly constrained by phenological uncoupling (a temporal phenomenon), abundance, body size and population structure. Some potential links are never observed, that is they are ‘forbidden’ (fully constrained) or ‘missing’ (a sampling effect), and their absence can be just as ecologically significant as their presence. Spatial habitat borders can add heterogeneity to network structure, but their importance has rarely been studied: we explore how habitat generalization can be related to other resource dimensions. Many networks are hierarchically structured, with modules forming the basic building blocks, which can result in self-similarity. Scaling down from networks of species reveals another, finer-grained level of individual-based organization, the ecological consequences of which have yet to be fully explored. The few studies of individual-based ecological networks that are available suggest the potential for large intraspecific variance and, in the case of food webs, strong size-structuring. However, such data are still scarce and more studies are required to link individual-level and species-level networks. Invasions by alien species can be tracked by following the topological ‘career’ of the invader as it establishes itself within a network, with potentially important implications for conservation biology. Finally, by scaling up to a higher level of organization, it is possible to combine different network types (e.g. food webs and mutualistic networks) to form super networks, and this new approach has yet to be integrated into mainstream ecological research. We conclude by listing a set of research topics that we see as emerging candidates for ecological network studies in the near future.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Aquatic Ecology

UniBE Contributor:

Melian Penate, Carlos Javier


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology




Advances in Ecological Research






Marcel Häsler

Date Deposited:

05 Sep 2014 15:45

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:32

Publisher DOI:



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