Food web visualisation: heatmap, interactive graph, animated flow network

Pawluczuk, Ł. & Iskrzynski, M. (2022). Food web visualisation: heatmap, interactive graph, animated flow network. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 14 57-64. 10.1111/2041-210X.13839.

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1. Food webs are the physical foundations of ecosystems. Visualisations help to find and present structural patterns of these weighted networks and are essential in research, conservation practice, and education. There has been no open-source library drawing weighted food webs with fractional trophic levels clearly. The existing approaches are scattered across separate libraries and programming languages.

2. We provide an ensemble of mutually complementary visualisation methods that enable a general overview of the system, as well as a clear presentation of its details: We use colours, sizes, positions, zoom, and movement for precise identification of flows, their magnitudes, and connectivity patterns. Vertical positions of nodes highlight the fractional trophic level as the most significant structural variable in a food web. The visualisations are in the form of modular and extensible Python functions. Jupyter notebooks display them interactively in HTML.

3. A heatmap of food web flows or diet proportions shows their general pattern at a glance while retaining their precise identification. An interactive graph allows tracing the flow of matter over subsequent links. The user can select nodes, zoom, adjust layout parameters and manually drag-and-drop nodes. An intuitive animation of particles moving between nodes uses colours and time dimension to trace connections better. It shows the multivariate food web aspects in one graph, together with a structural indicator, the trophic level. A bar plot and a heatmap summarise exchanges of matter between trophic levels.

4. We bring several complementary and customisable methods together to facilitate accompanying every food web publication and analysis with its visualisation. Users can tinker with the interactive output and method parameters to reach the desired effect. Aesthetically appealing images presenting empirical data help to communicate the importance of species interconnectedness and ecosystem complexity to the broader public. Visualisation tools facilitate incorporating real-world examples in education.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Advancing Systems Analysis (ASA)
Advancing Systems Analysis (ASA) > Exploratory Modeling of Human-natural Systems (EM)
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 14 Mar 2022 17:15
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2023 10:54

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