eCite Digital Repository

Ecosystem ecology: size-based constraints on the pyramids of life


Trebilco, R and Baum, JK and Salomon, AK and Dulvy, NK, Ecosystem ecology: size-based constraints on the pyramids of life, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 28, (7) pp. 423-431. ISSN 0169-5347 (2013) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.tree.2013.03.008


Biomass distribution and energy flow in ecosystems are traditionally described with trophic pyramids, and increasingly with size spectra, particularly in aquatic ecosystems. Here, we show that these methods are equivalent and interchangeable representations of the same information. Although pyramids are visually intuitive, explicitly linking them to size spectra connects pyramids to metabolic and size-based theory, and illuminates size-based constraints on pyramid shape. We show that bottom-heavy pyramids should predominate in the real world, whereas top-heavy pyramids indicate overestimation of predator abundance or energy subsidies. Making the link to ecological pyramids establishes size spectra as a central concept in ecosystem ecology, and provides a powerful framework both for understanding baseline expectations of community structure and for evaluating future scenarios under climate change and exploitation.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:biomass pyramid, trophic pyramid, body-size-distribution, ecological baselines, macroecology, metabolic theory of ecology, omnivory, ontogenetic diet shift, size spectra, turnover
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Community ecology (excl. invasive species ecology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Management of Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments
Objective Field:Assessment and management of Antarctic and Southern Ocean ecosystems
UTAS Author:Trebilco, R (Dr Rowan Trebilco)
ID Code:101964
Year Published:2013
Web of Science® Times Cited:213
Deposited By:CRC-Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems
Deposited On:2015-07-21
Last Modified:2017-11-06

Repository Staff Only: item control page