Geographical variation of multiplex ecological networks in marine intertidal communities

Miguel Lurgi, Núria Galiana, Bernardo R. Broitman, Sonia Kéfi, Evie A. Wieters, Sergio A. Navarrete

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Understanding the drivers of geographical variation in species distributions, and the resulting community structure, constitutes one of the grandest challenges in ecology. Geographical patterns of species richness and composition have been relatively well studied. Less is known about how the entire set of trophic and non-trophic ecological interactions, and the complex networks that they create by gluing species together in complex communities, change across geographical extents. Here, we compiled data of species composition and three types of ecological interactions occurring between species in rocky intertidal communities across a large spatial extent (~970 km of shoreline) of central Chile, and analyzed the geographical variability in these multiplex networks (i.e., comprising several interaction types) of ecological interactions. We calculated nine network summary statistics common across interaction types, and additional network attributes specific to each of the different types of interactions. We then investigated potential environmental drivers of this multivariate network organization. These included variation in sea surface temperature and coastal upwelling, the main drivers of productivity in nearshore waters. Our results suggest that structural properties of multiplex ecological networks are affected by local species richness and modulated by factors influencing productivity and environmental predictability. Our results show that non-trophic negative interactions are more sensitive to spatially structured temporal environmental variation than feeding relationships, with non-trophic positive interactions being the least labile to it. We also show that environmental effects are partly mediated through changes in species richness and partly through direct influences on species interactions, probably associated to changes in environmental predictability and to bottom-up nutrient availability. Our findings highlight the need for a comprehensive picture of ecological interactions and their geographical variability if we are to predict potential effects of environmental changes on ecological communities.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere03165
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • central Chile
  • coastal upwelling
  • ecological interactions
  • environmental predictability
  • food webs
  • latitudinal gradient
  • network structure
  • non-trophic negative interactions
  • non-trophic positive interactions
  • productivity
  • rocky shore intertidal communities
  • sea surface temperature


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