Allometric Trophic Networks From Individuals to Socio-Ecosystems: Consumer–Resource Theory of the Ecological Elephant in the Room

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

A well-known parable is that of the blind men studying an elephant each of which assert the elephant is the part they first hold in their hands, e.g., “rope!” says the tail holder while the leg holder asserts “tree!” The various subdisciplines of ecology appear similar in that we each engage in our enthusiastic but at least somewhat myopic study with remarkably limited agreement or even discussion about the overall system which we all study. Allometric trophic network (ATN) theory offers a path out of this dilemma by integrating across scales, taxa, habitats and organizational levels from physiology to ecosystems based on consumer-resource interactions among co-existing organisms. The network architecture and the metabolic and behavioral processes that determine the structure and dynamics of these interactions form the first principles of ATN theory, which in turn provides a synthetic overview and powerfully predictive framework for ecology from organisms to ecosystems. Beyond ecology, ATN theory also synthesizes eco-evolutionary and socio-ecological research still largely based on consumer-resource mechanisms but respectively integrated with different processes including natural selection and market mechanisms. This paper briefly describes foundations, advances, and future directions of ATN theory including predicting an ecosystem’s phenotype from its community’s genotype in order to accelerate more predictive and unified understanding of the complex systems studied by ecologists and other environmental scientists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number92
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Volume8
DOIs
StatePublished - May 27 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • allometry
  • consumer resource dynamics
  • ecological networks
  • food webs
  • mutualistic networks
  • prediction
  • stability
  • synthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology

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