Redes de Interações: variam no tempo e podem ter seus resultados testados.
Ant-Plant Interaction in a Tropical Savanna: May the Network Structure Vary over Time and Influence on the Outcomes of Associations? Denise Lange & Kleber Del Claro
PLoS ONE 9(8): e105574. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105574
Plant-animal interactions occur in a community context of dynamic and complex ecological interactive networks. The understanding of who interacts with whom is a basic information, but the outcomes of interactions among associates are fundamental to draw valid conclusions about the functional structure of the network. Ecological networks studies in general gave little importance to know the true outcomes of interactions and how they may change over time. We evaluate the dynamic of an interaction network between ants and plants with extrafloral nectaries, by verifying the temporal variation in structure and outcomes of mutualism for the plant community (leaf herbivory). To reach this goal, we used two tools: bipartite network analysis and experimental manipulation. The networks exhibited the same general pattern as other mutualistic networks: nestedness, asymmetry and low specialization and this pattern was maintained over time, but with internal changes (species degree, connectance and ant abundance). These changes influenced the protection effectiveness of plants by ants, which varied over time. Our study shows that interaction networks between ants and plants are dynamic over time, and that these alterations affect the outcomes of mutualisms. In addition, our study proposes that the set of single systems that shape ecological networks can be manipulated for a greater understanding of the entire system.