, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 123-135,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Stochastic ecological network occupancy (SENO) models: a new tool for modeling ecological networks across spatial scales

Abstract

Stochastic ecological network occupancy (SENO) models predict the probability that species will occur in a sample of an ecological network. In this review, we introduce SENO models as a means to fill a gap in the theoretical toolkit of ecologists. As input, SENO models use a topological interaction network and rates of colonization and extinction (including consumer effects) for each species. A SENO model then simulates the ecological network over time, resulting in a series of sub-networks that can be used to identify commonly encountered community modules. The proportion of time a species is present in a patch gives its expected probability of occurrence, whose sum across species gives expected species richness. To illustrate their utility, we provide simple examples of how SENO models can be used to investigate how topological complexity, species interactions, species traits, and spatial scale affect communities in space and time. They can categorize species as biodiversity facilitators, contributors, or inhibitors, making this approach promising for ecosystem-based management of invasive, threatened, or exploited species.