Characterizing species interactions to understand press perturbations: What is the community matrix?

Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
By: , and 

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Abstract

The community matrix is among ecology's most important mathematical abstractions, formally encapsulating the interconnected network of effects that species have on one another's populations. Despite its importance, the term `community matrix' has been applied to matrices having differing interpretations. This has hindered the application of theory for understanding community structure and perturbation responses, particularly in the contexts of ecosystem-based management and conservation. Here we clarify the correspondence and distinctions between the Interaction matrix, the Alpha matrix and the Jacobian matrix, terms which are frequently used interchangeably and have numerous synonyms, including the term Community matrix. We illustrate how these matrices correspond to different ways of characterizing interaction strengths, how they permit insights regarding different types of press perturbations of species growth rates or abundances, and how these are related by a simple scaling relationship. Connections to additional interaction strength characterizations encapsulated by the Beta matrix, the Gamma matrix, and the Removal matrix are also discussed. Our synthesis highlights the empirical challenges that remain in using these mathematical tools to understand actual communities.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Characterizing species interactions to understand press perturbations: What is the community matrix?
Series title Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
DOI 10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-032416-010215
Volume 47
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Annual Reviews
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 24 p.
First page 409
Last page 432
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N