The networks that form natural, social, and technological systems are vulnerable to the spreading impacts of perturbations. Theory predicts that networks with a clustered or modular structure—where nodes within a module interact more frequently than they do with nodes in other modules—might contain a perturbation, preventing it from spreading to the entire network. Gilarranz et al. conducted experiments with networked populations of springtail ( Folsomia candida ) microarthropods to show that modularity limits the impact of a local extinction on neighboring nodes (see the Perspective by Sales-Pardo). In networks with high modularity, the perturbation was contained within the targeted module, and its impact did not spread to nodes beyond it. However, simulations revealed that modularity is beneficial to the network only when perturbations are present; otherwise, it hinders population growth.
Science , this issue p. ; see also p.