Ecogeographical rules and the macroecology of food webs

Benjamin Baiser, Dominique Gravel, Alyssa R. Cirtwill, Jennifer A. Dunne, Ashkaan K. Fahimipour, Luis J. Gilarranz, Joshua A. Grochow, Daijiang Li, Neo D. Martinez, Alicia McGrew, Timothée Poisot, Tamara N. Romanuk, Daniel B. Stouffer, Lauren B. Trotta, Fernanda S. Valdovinos, Richard J. Williams, Spencer A. Wood, Justin D. Yeakel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Aim: How do factors such as space, time, climate and other ecological drivers influence food web structure and dynamics? Collections of well-studied food webs and replicate food webs from the same system that span biogeographical and ecological gradients now enable detailed, quantitative investigation of such questions and help integrate food web ecology and macroecology. Here, we integrate macroecology and food web ecology by focusing on how ecogeographical rules [the latitudinal diversity gradient (LDG), Bergmann's rule, the island rule and Rapoport's rule] are associated with the architecture of food webs. Location: Global. Time period: Current. Major taxa studied: All taxa. Methods: We discuss the implications of each ecogeographical rule for food webs, present predictions for how food web structure will vary with each rule, assess empirical support where available, and discuss how food webs may influence ecogeographical rules. Finally, we recommend systems and approaches for further advancing this research agenda. Results: We derived testable predictions for some ecogeographical rules (e.g. LDG, Rapoport's rule), while for others (e.g., Bergmann's and island rules) it is less clear how we would expect food webs to change over macroecological scales. Based on the LDG, we found weak support for both positive and negative relationships between food chain length and latitude and for increased generality and linkage density at higher latitudes. Based on Rapoport's rule, we found support for the prediction that species turnover in food webs is inversely related to latitude. Main conclusions: The macroecology of food webs goes beyond traditional approaches to biodiversity at macroecological scales by focusing on trophic interactions among species. The collection of food web data for different types of ecosystems across biogeographical gradients is key to advance this research agenda. Further, considering food web interactions as a selection pressure that drives or disrupts ecogeographical rules has the potential to address both mechanisms of and deviations from these macroecological relationships. For these reasons, further integration of macroecology and food webs will help ecologists better understand the assembly, maintenance and change of ecosystems across space and time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1204-1218
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2019


  • Bergmann's rule
  • Rapoport's rule
  • ecogeographical rules
  • ecological networks
  • food webs
  • island rule
  • latitudinal diversity gradient
  • macroecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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