Network motifs involving both competition and facilitation predict biodiversity in alpine plant communities

Gianalberto Losapio, Christian Schöb, Phillip P.A. Staniczenko, Francesco Carrara, Gian Marco Palamara, Consuelo M. de Moraes, Mark C. Mescher, Rob W. Brooker, Bradley J. Butterfield, Ragan M. Callaway, Lohengrin A. Cavieres, Zaal Kikvidze, Christopher J. Lortie, Richard Michalet, Francisco I. Pugnaire, Jordi Bascompte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Biological diversity depends on multiple, cooccurring ecological interactions. However, most studies focus on one interaction type at a time, leaving community ecologists unsure of how positive and negative associations among species combine to influence biodiversity patterns. Using surveys of plant populations in alpine communities worldwide, we explore patterns of positive and negative associations among triads of species (modules) and their relationship to local biodiversity. Three modules, each incorporating both positive and negative associations, were overrepresented, thus acting as "network motifs." Furthermore, the overrepresentation of these network motifs is positively linked to species diversity globally. A theoretical model illustrates that these network motifs, based on competition between facilitated species or facilitation between inferior competitors, increase local persistence. Our findings suggest that the interplay of competition and facilitation is crucial for maintaining biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2005759118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 9 2021


  • Biodiversity change
  • Community ecology
  • Ecological networks
  • Mountain ecosystems
  • Plant interaction networks


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