Google’s algorithm for ranking web pages can be adapted to determine which species are critical for sustaining ecosystems, say researchers.
According to a paper in PLoS Computational Biology, “PageRank” can be applied to the study of food webs.
These are the complex networks of who eats whom in an ecosystem.
The scientists say their version of PageRank could be a simple way of working out which extinctions would lead to ecosystem collapse.
Every species is embedded in a complex network of relationships with others. So a single extinction can cascade into the loss of seemingly unrelated species.
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