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Science - The predator-prey power law: Biomass scaling across terrestrial and aquatic biomes

Science - The predator-prey power law: Biomass scaling across terrestrial and aquatic biomes
© A. Laporte
Despite the huge diversity of ecological communities, they can have unexpected patterns in common. Hatton et al. describe a general scaling law that relates total predator and prey biomass in terrestrial and aquatic animal communities (see the Perspective by Cebrian). They draw on data from many thousands of population counts of animal communities ranging from plankton to large mammals, across a wide range of biomes. They find a ubiquitous pattern of biomass scaling, which may suggest an underlying organization in ecosystems. It seems that communities follow systematic changes in structure and dynamics across environmental gradients.

A surprisingly general pattern at very large scales casts light on the link between ecosystem structure and function. We show a robust scaling law that emerges uniquely at the level of whole ecosystems and is conserved across terrestrial and aquatic biomes worldwide. This pattern describes the changing structure and productivity of the predator-prey biomass pyramid, which represents the biomass of communities at different levels of the food chain. Scaling exponents of the relation between predator versus prey biomass and community production versus biomass are often near ¾, which indicates that very different communities of species exhibit similar high-level structure and function. This recurrent community growth pattern is remarkably similar to individual growth patterns and may hint at a basic process that reemerges across levels of organization.

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Date of parution: 4 september 4 2015

References: DOI : 10.1126/science. aac6284

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