Journal article

Covariations in ecological scaling laws fostered by community dynamics

Scaling laws in ecology, intended both as functional relationships among ecologically relevant quantities and the probability distributions that characterize their occurrence, have long attracted the interest of empiricists and theoreticians. Empirical evidence exists of power laws associated with the number of species inhabiting an ecosystem, their abundances, and traits. Although their functional form appears to be ubiquitous, empirical scaling exponents vary with ecosystem type and resource supply rate. The idea that ecological scaling laws are linked has been entertained before, but the full extent of macroecological pattern covariations, the role of the constraints imposed by finite resource supply, and a comprehensive empirical verification are still unexplored. Here, we propose a theoretical scaling framework that predicts the linkages of several macroecological patterns related to species’ abundances and body sizes. We show that such a framework is consistent with the stationary-state statistics of a broad class of resource-limited community dynamics models, regardless of parameterization and model assumptions. We verify predicted theoretical covariations by contrasting empirical data and provide testable hypotheses for yet unexplored patterns. We thus place the observed variability of ecological scaling exponents into a coherent statistical framework where patterns in ecology embed constrained fluctuations.

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