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Modularity of trophic network is driven by phylogeny and migration in a steppe ecosystem

Végvári, Zsolt
Ecological complexity 2019 v.38 pp. 112-139
ecosystems, food webs, migratory behavior, migratory species, phylogeny, steppes
Evidence is mounting that the structures of trophic networks are governed by migratory movements of interacting species and also by their phylogenetic relationships. Using the largest available trophic network of a large steppe ecosystem, we tested that steppe trophic networks including migratory species are associated with (i) migratory strategy and (ii) phylogenetic relatedness of interacting species: (1) whole graph-level metrics, estimated as modularity, and (2) species-level network metrics, measured as node degree (number of interacting partners), and centrality metrics. We found that (1) a substantial number of links were established by migrant taxa; (2) the phylogenetic signal in network structure was moderate for both consumer and prey nodes; (3) both consumer and prex phylogenies affected modularity, which was modulated by migration strategy; and (4) all species-level graph properties significantly differed between networks including and excluding migratory taxa. In sum, here we show that the structure of steppe trophic networks is primarily governed by migratory strategies and to a lesser extent, by phylogenetic relatedness, using the largest available food web representative for steppe ecology and migration biology.