Regional and small-scale local oceanographic conditions can lead to high variability in community structure even among similar habitats. Communities with identical species composition can depict distinct networks due to different levels of disturbance as well as physical and biological processes. In this study we reconstruct community networks in four different areas off the Oregon Coast by matching simulated communities with observed dynamics. We compared reserves with harvested areas. Simulations suggested that different community networks, but with the same species composition, can represent each study site. Differences were found in predator-prey interactions as well as non-predatory interactions between community members. In addition, each site can be represented as a set of models, creating alternative stages among sites. The set of alternative models that characterize each study area depicts a sequence of functional responses where each specific model or interaction structure creates different species composition patterns. Different management practices, either in the past or of the present, may lead to alternative communities. Our findings suggest that management strategies should be analyzed at a community level that considers the possible consequences of shifting from one community scenario to another. This analysis provides a novel conceptual framework to assess the consequences of different management options for ecological communities. ?? 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.