Diversity increases the stability of ecosystems

Francesca Arese Lucini, Flaviano Morone, Maria Silvina Tomassone, Hernán A. Makse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


In 1972, Robert May showed that diversity is detrimental to an ecosystem since, as the number of species increases, the ecosystem is less stable. This is the so-called diversity-stability paradox, which has been derived by considering a mathematical model with linear interactions between the species. Despite being in contradiction with empirical evidence, the diversity-stability paradox has survived the test of time for over 40+ years. In this paper we first show that this paradox is a conclusion driven solely by the linearity of the model employed in its derivation which allows for the neglection of the fixed point solution in the stability analysis. The linear model leads to an ill-posed solution and along with it, its paradoxical stability predictions. We then consider a model ecosystem with nonlinear interactions between species, which leads to a stable ecosystem when the number of species is increased. The saturating non linear term in the species interaction is analogous to a Hill function appearing in systems like gene regulation, neurons, diffusion of information and ecosystems The exact fixed point solution of this model is based on k-core percolation and shows that the paradox disappears. This theoretical result, which is exact and non-perturbative, shows that diversity is beneficial to the ecosystem in agreement with analyzed experimental evidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0228692
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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