Revealing biases in the sampling of ecological interaction networks

Author
de Aguiar, Marcus A. M · Newman, Erica A · Pires, Mathias M · Yeakel, Justin D · Hembry, David H · Burkle, Laura · Gravel, Dominique · Guimaraes Jr, Paulo R · O'Donnell, Jimmy · Poisot, Timothee · Fortin, Marie-Josee
Year 2017
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Abstract

The structure of ecological interactions is commonly understood through analyses of interaction networks. However, these analyses may be sensitive to sampling biases in both the interactors (the nodes of the network) and interactions (the links between nodes). These issues may affect the accuracy of empirically constructed ecological networks. We explore the properties of sampled ecological networks by simulating large-scale ecological networks with predetermined topologies, and sampling them with different mathematical procedures. Several types of modular networks were generated, intended to represent a wide variety of communities that vary in size and types of ecological interactions. We sampled these networks with different sampling designs that may be encountered in field experiments. The observed networks generated by each sampling process were analyzed with respect to number and size of components. We show that the sampling effort needed to estimate underlying network properties depends both on the sampling design and on network topology. Networks with random or scale-free modules require more complete sampling compared to networks whose modules are nested or bipartite. Overall, the structure of nested modules was the easiest to detect, regardless of sampling design. Sampling according to species degree was consistently found to be the most accurate strategy to estimate network structure. Conversely, sampling according to module results in an accurate view of certain modules, but fails to provide a global picture of the underlying network. We recommend that these findings are incorporated into the design of projects aiming to characterize large networks of species interactions in the field, to reduce sampling biases. The software scripts developed to construct and sample networks are provided for further explorations of network structure and comparisons to real interaction data.

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Details

Title
Revealing biases in the sampling of ecological interaction networks
Author
de Aguiar, Marcus A. M · Newman, Erica A · Pires, Mathias M · Yeakel, Justin D · Hembry, David H · Burkle, Laura · Gravel, Dominique · Guimaraes Jr, Paulo R · O'Donnell, Jimmy · Poisot, Timothee · Fortin, Marie-Josee
Year
2017
Type
Research Article
Language
eng
Comment
35 pages, 4 figures
History
2017-08-03 00:00:00
Categories
Quantitative Biology · Populations and Evolution
This is Version 1 of this record. We added this version on August 5, 2017. This version is based on an original data import from arXiv.org e-Print archive.