Network ecology: Topological constraints on ecosystem dynamics

Ferenc Jordán, István Scheuring

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

67 Citations (Scopus)


Ecological systems are complex assemblages of various species with interactions between them. The interactions can be even more important than the species themselves for understanding how the whole system is functioning and organized. For the representation of the topological space of interspecific relationships, graph theory is a suitable mathematical tool: the network perspective and the various techniques of network analysis are more and more elaborated and invading ecology. Beyond a static view on networks, fundamental questions can only be answered if dynamical analyses are also made, and now it is clear that structural and dynamical studies must not "compete" but strongly complement each other. Our aim is to give a menu of classical and more recently suggested network indices and to discuss what do we know about their relations to ecosystem dynamics. Since ecologists have very diverse problems, they need diverse techniques and a good insight in matching the adequate method to a particular problem. The main question is how to link certain graph properties to understanding and predicting the behaviour of an ecosystem. We wish to contribute to bridging the gap between extreme structural and extreme dynamical views.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-172
Number of pages34
JournalPhysics of Life Reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2004


  • Community organization
  • Ecosystem stability
  • Food web
  • Graph theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Artificial Intelligence

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