Theoretical Ecology

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 495–503 | Cite as

Global versus local extinction in a network model of plant–pollinator communities

  • Thomas LaBar
  • Colin CampbellEmail author
  • Suann Yang
  • Réka Albert
  • Katriona Shea
Original Paper


The loss of a species from an ecological community can trigger a cascade of additional extinctions; the complex interactions that comprise ecological communities make the dynamics and impacts of such a cascade challenging to predict. Previous studies have typically considered global extinctions, where a species cannot re-enter a community once it is lost. However, in some cases a species only becomes locally extinct, and may be able to reinvade from surrounding communities. Here, we use a dynamic, Boolean network model of plant–pollinator community assembly to analyze the differences between global and local extinction events in mutualistic communities. As expected, we find that compared to global extinctions, communities respond to local extinctions with lower biodiversity loss, and less variation in topological network properties. We demonstrate that in the face of global extinctions, larger communities suffer greater biodiversity loss than smaller communities when similar proportions of species are lost. Conversely, smaller communities suffer greater loss in the face of local extinctions. We show that targeting species with the most interacting partners causes more biodiversity loss than random extinctions in the case of global, but not local, extinctions. These results extend our understanding of how mutualistic communities respond to species loss, with implications for community management and conservation efforts.


Biodiversity Extinctions Mutualisms Network theory Pollination Species richness 



We acknowledge members of the Shea research lab for helpful discussions during the preparation of this research. This work was supported by NSF grant DEB-0815373 and an NSF REU to K.S., NSF grant PHY 1205840 to R.A., and the Biology Department (Presbyterian College) to SY.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas LaBar
    • 1
  • Colin Campbell
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Suann Yang
    • 4
  • Réka Albert
    • 2
    • 3
  • Katriona Shea
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of MathematicsThe Pennsylvania State UniversityPennsylvaniaUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityPennsylvaniaUSA
  3. 3.Department of PhysicsThe Pennsylvania State UniversityPennsylvaniaUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyPresbyterian CollegeClintonUSA

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