Fluctuating interaction network and time-varying stability of a natural fish community

  • Nature volume 554, pages 360363 (15 February 2018)
  • doi:10.1038/nature25504
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Ecological theory suggests that large-scale patterns such as community stability can be influenced by changes in interspecific interactions that arise from the behavioural and/or physiological responses of individual species varying over time1,2,3. Although this theory has experimental support2,4,5, evidence from natural ecosystems is lacking owing to the challenges of tracking rapid changes in interspecific interactions (known to occur on timescales much shorter than a generation time)6 and then identifying the effect of such changes on large-scale community dynamics. Here, using tools for analysing nonlinear time series6,7,8,9 and a 12-year-long dataset of fortnightly collected observations on a natural marine fish community in Maizuru Bay, Japan, we show that short-term changes in interaction networks influence overall community dynamics. Among the 15 dominant species, we identify 14 interspecific interactions to construct a dynamic interaction network. We show that the strengths, and even types, of interactions change with time; we also develop a time-varying stability measure based on local Lyapunov stability for attractor dynamics in non-equilibrium nonlinear systems. We use this dynamic stability measure to examine the link between the time-varying interaction network and community stability. We find seasonal patterns in dynamic stability for this fish community that broadly support expectations of current ecological theory. Specifically, the dominance of weak interactions and higher species diversity during summer months are associated with higher dynamic stability and smaller population fluctuations. We suggest that interspecific interactions, community network structure and community stability are dynamic properties, and that linking fluctuating interaction networks to community-level dynamic properties is key to understanding the maintenance of ecological communities in nature.

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We thank members of the Kondoh laboratory in Ryukoku University; F. Grziwotz, A. Telschow and T. Miki for discussions; S.-I. Nakayama for advice on the twin surrogate method; and T. Yoshida and M. Kasada for providing time series of the algae–rotifer system. This research was supported by CREST, grant number JPMJCR13A2, Japan Science and Technology Agency; KAKENHI grant number 15K14610 and 16H04846, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science; Foundation for the Advancement of Outstanding Scholarship (Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan); DoD-Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program 15 RC-2509; Lenfest Ocean Program 00028335; NSF DBI-1667584; NSF DEB-1655203; the McQuown Fund and the McQuown Chair in Natural Sciences (University of California, San Diego).

Author information


  1. Department of Environmental Solution Technology, Faculty of Science and Technology, Ryukoku University, Otsu 520-2194, Japan

    • Masayuki Ushio
    •  & Michio Kondoh
  2. Joint Research Center for Science and Technology, Ryukoku University, Otsu 520-2194, Japan

    • Masayuki Ushio
  3. Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University, Otsu 520-2113, Japan

    • Masayuki Ushio
  4. PRESTO, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Kawaguchi 332-0012, Japan

    • Masayuki Ushio
  5. Institute of Oceanography, Institute of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Department of Life Science, National Taiwan University, Taipei 10617, Taiwan

    • Chih-hao Hsieh
  6. Taiwan International Graduate Program (TIGP)–Earth System Science Program, Academia Sinica and National Central University, Taipei 11529, Taiwan

    • Chih-hao Hsieh
    •  & Chun-Wei Chang
  7. National Center for Theoretical Science, Taipei 10617, Taiwan

    • Chih-hao Hsieh
  8. Maizuru Fisheries Research Station, Field Science Education and Research Center, Kyoto University, Maizuru, Kyoto 625-0086, Japan.

    • Reiji Masuda
  9. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA.

    • Ethan R Deyle
    • , Hao Ye
    •  & George Sugihara
  10. Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA

    • Hao Ye


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M.U., C.H. and M.K. designed the research programme; R.M. collected fish monitoring data; M.U. and G.S. conceived the idea of computing local Lyapunov stability from S-maps; M.U. performed analysis with help from C.H., E.R.D., H.Y. and C.-W.C.; M.U., C.H. and M.K. wrote the first draft of the paper; and all authors were involved in interpreting the results, and contributed to the final draft of the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Masayuki Ushio or Michio Kondoh.

Reviewer Information Nature thanks J. Bascompte, U. Brose and K. McCann for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Text Sections 1-6 and Supplementary References.

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    Life Sciences Reporting Summary


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