From insect-plant interactions to ecological networks


  • Thomas Michael Lewinsohn Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Instituto de Biologia, Departamento de Biologia Animal
  • Mário Almeida Neto Universidade Federal de Goiás, Departamento de Ecologia
  • Adriana Almeida Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, Centro de Biociências, Departamento de Ecologia
  • Paulo Inácio Prado Universidade de São Paulo, Instituto de Biociências, Departamento de Ecologia
  • Leonardo Ré Jorge Czech Academy of Sciences – České Budějovice, Department of Ecology, Institute of Entomology


Abstract Since its inception, biodiversity has largely been understood as species diversity and assessed as such. Interactions among species or functional groups are gradually becoming part of an expanded concept of biodiversity. As a case study of the development of a research program in biodiversity, we summarize our multi-decade studies on interactions of Asteraceae and flowerhead-feeding insects in Brazil. Initially, host species were treated as independent replicates in order to assess the local and turnover components of their herbivore diversity. Research then expanded into sampling entire interactive communities of host plants and their associated herbivores in different localities and regions, enabling new research lines to be pursued. Interaction diversity could be assessed and factored into spatial and among-host components, suggesting a new field of interaction geography. Second, host specialization, a key component of interaction diversity, was reframed considering simultaneously relatedness and local availability of plant hosts. Third, with the influence of complex network theory, community-wide species interactions were probed for topological patterns. Having identified the modular structure of these plant-herbivore systems, later we demonstrated that they fit a compound hierarchical topology, in which interactions are nested within large-scale modules. In a brief survey of research funded by Fapesp, especially within the Biota-Fapesp program, we highlight several lines of internationally recognized research on interaction diversity, notably on plant-frugivore and plant-pollinator interactions, together with new theoretical models. The interplay of field studies with new theoretical and analytical approaches has established interaction diversity as an essential component for monitoring, conserving and restoring biodiversity in its broader sense.




How to Cite

Lewinsohn, T. M., Almeida Neto, M., Almeida, A., Prado, P. I., & Jorge, L. R. (2022). From insect-plant interactions to ecological networks. Biota Neotropica, 22(spe). Retrieved from //



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