Original Paper

Theoretical Ecology

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 467-478

First online:

Emergence and maintenance of biodiversity in an evolutionary food-web model

  • Åke BrännströmAffiliated withDepartment of Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, Umeå UniversityInternational Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Evolution and Ecology Program Email author 
  • , Nicolas LoeuilleAffiliated withLaboratoire Ecologie & Evolution, Université Pierre et Marie Curie
  • , Michel LoreauAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, McGill University
  • , Ulf DieckmannAffiliated withInternational Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Evolution and Ecology ProgramSection Theoretical Biology, Institute of Biology Leiden University

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Ecological communities emerge as a consequence of gradual evolution, speciation, and immigration. In this study, we explore how these processes and the structure of the evolved food webs are affected by species-level properties. Using a model of biodiversity formation that is based on body size as the evolving trait and incorporates gradual evolution and adaptive radiation, we investigate how conditions for initial diversification relate to the eventual diversity of a food web. We also study how trophic interactions, interference competition, and energy availability affect a food web’s maximum trophic level and contrast this with conditions for high diversity. We find that there is not always a positive relationship between conditions that promote initial diversification and eventual diversity, and that the most diverse food webs often do not have the highest trophic levels.


Food-web structure Biodiversity Evolution Coevolution Adaptive dynamics Adaptive radiation