The loss of a species from an ecological community can trigger a cascade of additional extinctions; the complex interactions that comprise ecological communities make the dynamics and impacts of such a cascade challenging to predict. Previous studies have typically considered global extinctions, where a species cannot re-enter a community once it is lost. However, in some cases a species only becomes locally extinct, and may be able to reinvade from surrounding communities. Here, we use a dynamic, Boolean network model of plant-pollinator community assembly to analyze the differences between global and local extinction events in mutualistic communities. As expected, we find that compared to global extinctions, communities respond to local extinctions with lower biodiversity loss, and less variation in topological network properties. We demonstrate that in the face of global extinctions, larger communities suffer greater biodiversity loss than smaller communities when similar proportions of species are lost. Conversely, smaller communities suffer greater loss in the face of local extinctions. We show that targeting species with the most interacting partners causes more biodiversity loss than random extinctions in the case of global, but not local, extinctions. These results extend our understanding of how mutualistic communities respond to species loss, with implications for community management and conservation efforts.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecological Modeling