Invasive species modulate the structure and stability of a multilayer mutualistic network

Agustin Vitali, Sofía Ruiz-Suarez, Diego P. Vázquez, Matthias Schleuning, Mariano A. Rodríguez-Cabal, Yamila Sasal, Shai Pilosof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Species interactions are critical for maintaining community structure and dynamics, but the effects of invasive species on multitrophic networks remain poorly understood. We leveraged an ongoing invasion scenario in Patagonia, Argentina, to explore how non-native ungulates affect multitrophic networks. Ungulates disrupt a hummingbird-mistletoe-marsupial keystone interaction, which alters community composition. We sampled pollination and seed dispersal interactions in intact and invaded sites. We constructed pollination and seed dispersal networks for each site, which we connected via shared plants. We calculated pollination-seed dispersal connectivity, identified clusters of highly connected species, and quantified species' roles in connecting species clusters. To link structural variation to stability, we quantified network tolerance to single random species removal (disturbance propagation) and sequential species removal (robustness) using a stochastic coextinction model. Ungulates reduced the connectivity between pollination and seed dispersal and produced fewer clusters with a skewed size distribution. Moreover, species shifted their structural role, fragmenting the network by reducing the 'bridges' among species clusters. These structural changes altered the dynamics of cascading effects, increasing disturbance propagation and reducing network robustness. Our results highlight invasive species' role in altering community structure and subsequent stability in multitrophic communities.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number20230132
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number2001
StatePublished - 28 Jun 2023


  • community stability
  • ecological networks
  • invasive species
  • multilayer networks
  • mutualistic interactions

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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