Ecological scaling laws link individual body size variation to population abundance fluctuation

Publications Type: 
Journal Article
Publication Number: 

Xu, Meng. 2016. Ecological scaling laws link individual body size variation to population abundance fluctuation. Oikos. 125(3): 288-299. doi: 10.1111/oik.03100


Scaling research has seen remarkable progress in the past several decades. Many scaling relationships were discovered within and across individual and population levels, such as species–abundance relationship, Taylor's law, and density mass allometry. However none of these established patterns incorporate individual variation in the formulation. Individual body size variation is a key evolutionary phenomenon and closely related to ecological diversity and species adaptation. Using a macroecological approach, I test 57 Long-Term Ecological Research data sets and show that a power-law and a generalized power-law function describe well the mean-variance scaling of individual body mass. This relationship connects Taylor's law and density mass allometry, and leads to a new scaling pattern between the individual body size variation and population abundance fluctuation, which is confirmed using freshwater fish and forest tree data. Underlying mechanisms and implications of the proposed scaling relationships are discussed. This synthesis shows that integration and extension of existing ecological laws can lead to the discovery of new scaling patterns and complete our understanding of the relation between individual trait and population abundance.

Synthesis: Scaling relationships are useful for community ecology as they reveal ubiquitous patterns across different levels of biological organizations. This work extends and integrates two existing scaling laws: Taylor's law and density-mass allometry, and derives a new variance allometry between individual body mass and population abundance. The result shows that diverse individual body size is associated with stable population fluctuation, reflecting the effect of individual traits on population characteristics. Confirmed by several empirical data sets, these scaling relationships suggest new ways to study the underlying mechanisms of Taylor's law and have profound implications for fisheries and other applied sciences.