The effect of multiple biotic interaction types on species persistence

No species can persist in isolation from other species, but how biotic interactions affect species persistence is still a matter of inquiry. Is persistence more likely in communities with higher proportion of competing species, or in communities with more positive interactions? How do different components of community structure mediate this relationship? We address these questions using a novel simulation framework that generates realistic communities with varying numbers of species and different proportions of biotic interaction types within and across trophic levels. We show that when communities have fewer species, persistence is more likely if positive interactions—such as mutualism and commensalism—are prevalent. In species‐rich communities, the disproportionate effect of positive interactions on persistence is diluted and different combinations of biotic interaction types can coexist without affecting persistence significantly. We present the first theoretical examination of how multiple‐interaction networks with varying architectures relate to local species persistence, and provide insight about the underlying causes of stability in communities.