Communities as cliques

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High-diversity species assemblages are very common in nature, and yet the factors allowing for the maintenance of biodiversity remain obscure. The competitive exclusion principle and May's complexity-diversity puzzle both suggest that a community can support only a small number of species, turning the spotlight on the dynamics of local patches or islands, where stable and uninvadable (SU) subsets of species play a crucial role. Here we map the question of the number of different possible SUs a community can support to the geometric problem of finding maximal cliques of the corresponding graph. This enables us to solve for the number of SUs as a function of the species richness in the regional pool, N, showing that the growth of this number is subexponential in N, contrary to long-standing wisdom. To understand the dynamics under noise we examine the relaxation time to an SU. Symmetric systems relax rapidly, whereas in asymmetric systems the relaxation time grows much faster with N, suggesting an excitable dynamics under noise.

Original languageEnglish
Article number35648
JournalScientific Reports
StatePublished - 19 Oct 2016

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© 2016 The Author(s).


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