Nestedness refers to the structural property of complex networks that the neighborhood of a given node is a subset of the neighborhoods of better-connected nodes. Following the seminal work by Patterson and Atmar (1986), ecologists have been long interested in revealing the configuration of maximal nestedness of spatial and interaction matrices of ecological communities. In ecology, the BINMATNEST genetic algorithm can be considered as the state-of-the-art approach for this task. On the other hand, the fitness-complexity ranking algorithm has been recently introduced in the economic complexity literature with the original goal to rank countries and products in World Trade export networks. Here, by bringing together quantitative methods from ecology and economic complexity, we show that the fitness-complexity algorithm is highly effective in the nestedness maximization task. More specifically, it generates matrices that are more nested than the optimal ones by BINMATNEST for 61.27% of the analyzed mutualistic networks. Our findings on ecological and World Trade data suggest that beyond its applications in economic complexity, the fitness-complexity algorithm has the potential to become a standard tool in nestedness analysis.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited