The effect of ecological network structure on the dynamics, stability, and, ultimately, diversity of ecological communities has been the center of an ongoing debate in the past 45 years. Several authors hypothesized that the observed departures from random structure observed in ecological networks are therefore “adaptive”. Indeed, a common hypothesis is that biological network structure is influenced by evolution, coevolution and/or adaptation: structures yielding unfavorable dynamics would be eliminated from the space of possible networks, so that in nature we would tend to observe structures that have withstood the test of time. An alternative view is the “network spandrel” hypothesis – a nod to the famous critique of the adaptionist programme by Gould and Lewontin: deviations from randomness in biological networks are the by-product of the network assembly process, and are therefore non-adaptive. While the implications of network structure for community/population dynamics are well studied, we know very little regarding the effect of dynamics on the structure of networks. The goal of this satellite is to explore how these two alternative processes contribute to the structure of biological networks and to explore whether, and how, they can be disentangled. This debate is crucial for our understanding of network assembly in particular and for understanding processes of network optimization in nature in general. The satellite we are proposing will not only spark a new debate in biology, but is also highly relevant for other disciplines because understanding the relationship between structure and dynamics is a cornerstone of every complex adaptive system.
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