The effect of population abundances on the stability of large random ecosystems

29 Aug 2017  ·  Gibbs Theo, Grilli Jacopo, Rogers Tim, Allesina Stefano ·

Random matrix theory successfully connects the structure of interactions of large ecological communities to their ability to respond to perturbations. One of the most debated aspects of this approach is the missing role of population abundances... Despite being one of the most studied patterns in ecology, and one of the most empirically accessible quantities, population abundances are always neglected in random matrix approaches and their role in determining stability is still not understood. Here, we tackle this question by explicitly including population abundances in a random matrix framework. We obtain an analytical formula that describes the spectrum of a large community matrix for arbitrary feasible species abundance distributions. The emerging picture is remarkably simple: while population abundances affect the rate to return to equilibrium after a perturbation, the stability of large ecosystems is uniquely determined by the interaction matrix. We confirm this result by showing that the likelihood of having a feasible and unstable solution in the Lotka-Volterra system of equations decreases exponentially with the number of species for stable interaction matrices. read more

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