Identifying flow modules in ecological networks using Infomap

Carmel Farage, Daniel Edler, Anna Eklöf, Martin Rosvall, Shai Pilosof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Analysing how species interact in modules is a fundamental problem in network ecology. Theory shows that a modular network structure can reveal underlying dynamic ecological and evolutionary processes, influence dynamics that operate on the network and affect the stability of the ecological system. Although many ecological networks describe flows, such as biomass flows in food webs or disease transmission, most modularity analyses have ignored network flows, which can hinder our understanding of the interplay between structure and dynamics. Here we present Infomap, an established method based on network flows to the field of ecological networks. Infomap is a flexible tool that can identify modules in virtually any type of ecological network and is particularly useful for directed, weighted and multilayer networks. We illustrate how Infomap works on all these network types. We also provide a fully documented repository with additional ecological examples. Finally, to help researchers to analyse their networks with Infomap, we introduce the open-source R package infomapecology. Analysing flow-based modularity is useful across ecology and transcends to other biological and non-biological disciplines. A dynamic approach for detecting modular structure has strong potential to provide new insights into the organisation of ecological networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)778-786
Number of pages9
JournalMethods in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2021


  • Infomap
  • community detection
  • dynamics
  • ecological networks
  • flow
  • modularity
  • multilayer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecological Modeling


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