Connectance determines invasion success via trophic interactions in model food webs

Benjamin Baiser, Gareth J. Russell, Julie L. Lockwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Human induced global change has greatly altered the structure and composition of food webs through the invasion of non-native species and the extinction of native species. Much attention has been paid to the effects of species deletions on food web structure and stability. However, recent empirical evidence suggests that for most taxa local species richness has increased as successful invasions outpace extinctions at this scale. This pattern suggests that food webs, which represent feeding interactions at the local scale, may be increasing in species richness. Knowledge of how food web structure relates to invasive species establishment and the effect of successful invaders on subsequent food web structure remains an unknown but potentially important aspect of global change. Here we explore the effect of food web topology on invasion success in model food webs to develop hypotheses about how the distribution of biodiversity across trophic levels affects the success of invasion at each trophic level. Our results suggest a connectance (C) based framework for predicting invasion success in food webs due to the way that C constrains the number of species at each trophic level and thus the number of potential predators and prey for an invader at a given trophic level. We use the relationship between C and the proportion of species at each trophic level in 14 well studied food webs to make the following predictions; 1) the success of basal invaders will increase as C increases due to the decrease in herbivores in high C webs, 2) herbivore invasion success will decrease as C increases due to the decrease in the proportion of basal species and increase in intermediate species and omnivores in high C webs. 3) Top predator invasion success will increase as C increases due to the increase in intermediate prey species. However, it is not clear how the relative influence of trophic structure compares to empirically known predictors of invasion success such as invader traits, propagule pressure, and resource availability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1970-1976
Number of pages7
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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