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Three allometric relations of population density to body mass: theoretical integration and empirical tests in 149 food webs

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Publication details

JournalEcology Letters
DatePublished - Nov 2008
Issue number11
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)1216-1228
Original languageEnglish


Predicting species population density-body mass scaling in community food webs (henceforth webs) is important for conservation and to understand community structure. Very different types of scaling have been studied, based on either individuals or species. The individual side distribution (ISD) describes the distribution of individual-organism body masses regardless of taxonomy, and contains the same information as the abundance spectrum. Focusing instead on species, the local size-density relationship (LSDR) plots population densities vs. mean body masses of species. The distribution of species mean body masses (the species-mean-size distribution, SMSD) is also important but previously little studied in webs. We here combine and formalize theory of several authors to predict: how these three descriptions are related; the forms of the LSDR and ISD; and variation in scaling among webs. We describe empirically the SMSDs of two pelagic, one estuarine, and 146 soil webs by power laws and generalizations. We test theory and find it broadly validated.

    Research areas

  • Allometry, biodiversity, biomass spectrum, body mass, metabolism, numerical abundance, population density, power law, size spectrum, truncated Pareto distribution, ECOLOGICAL COMMUNITY DESCRIPTION, SPECIES ABUNDANCE, NUMERICAL ABUNDANCE, SIZE DISTRIBUTIONS, SOIL INVERTEBRATES, ENERGY USE, BIOMASS, MODEL, SLOPE, TEMPERATURE

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