Across ecosystem comparisons of size structure: methods, approaches and prospects
Yvon-Durocher, G and Reiss, J and Blanchard, J and Ebenman, B and Perkins, DM and Reuman, DC and Thierry, A and Woodward, G and Petchey, OL, Across ecosystem comparisons of size structure: methods, approaches and prospects, Oikos, 120, (4) pp. 550-563. ISSN 0030-1299 (2011) [Refereed Article]
Understanding how ecological communities are structured and how this may vary between different types of ecosystems
is a fundamental question in ecology. We develop a general framework for quantifying size-structure within and among
different ecosystem types (e.g. terrestrial, freshwater or marine), via the use of a suite of bivariate relationships between
organismal size and properties of individuals, populations, assemblages, pair-wise interactions, and network topology. Each
of these relationships can be considered a dimension of size-structure, along which real communities lie on a continuous
scale. For example, the strength, slope, or elevation of the body mass-versus-abundance or predator size-versus-prey size
relationships may vary systematically among ecosystem types. We draw on examples from the literature and suggest new
ways to use allometries for comparing among ecosystem types, which we illustrate by applying them to published data.
Finally, we discuss how dimensions of size-structure are interconnected and how we could approach this complex hierarchy
systematically. We conclude: (1) there are multiple dimensions of size-structure; (2) communities may be size-structured in
some of these dimensions, but not necessarily in others; (3) across-system comparisons via rigorous quantitative statistical
methods are possible, and (4) insufficient data are currently available to illuminate thoroughly the full extent and nature of
differences in size-structure among ecosystem types.
community size structure, food webs, metabolic theory