For 50 years, ecologists have examined how the number of interactions (links) scales with the number of species in ecological networks. Here, we show that the way the number of links varies when species are sequentially removed from a community is fully defined by a single parameter identifiable from empirical data. We mathematically demonstrate that this parameter is network-specific and connects local stability and robustness, establishing a formal connection between community structure and two prime stability concepts. Importantly, this connection highlights a local stability–robustness trade-off, which is stronger in mutualistic than in trophic networks. Analysis of 435 empirical networks confirmed these results. We finally show how our network-specific approach relates to the classical across-network approach found in literature. Taken together, our results elucidate one of the intricate relationships between network structure and stability in community networks.