The extinction of a species in a plant–pollinator mutualistic community can cause cascading effects and lead to major biodiversity loss. The ecologically important task of predicting the severity of the cascading effects is made challenging by the complex network of interactions among the species. In this work, we analyze an ensemble of models of communities of plant and pollinator species. These models describe the mutualistic inter-species interactions by Boolean threshold functions. We show that identifying generalized positive feedback loops can help pinpoint the species whose extinction leads to catastrophic and substantial damage to the whole community. We compare these results with the damage percentage caused by the loss of species identified as important by previously studied structural measures and show that positive feedback loops and the information gained from them can identify certain crucial species that the other measures fail to find. We also suggest mitigation measures for two specific purposes: (1) prevent the damage to the community by protecting a subset of the species, and (2) restore the community after the damage by restoring a subset of species. Our analyses indicate that the generalized positive feedback loops predict the most efficient strategies to achieve these purposes. The correct identification of species in each category has important implications for conservation efforts and developing community management strategies.
|Original language||English (US)|
|State||Published - Dec 2023|
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes