Thermodynamic and metabolic effects on the scaling of production and population energy use

S. K. Morgan Ernest, Brian J. Enquist, James H. Brown, Eric L. Charnov, James F. Gillooly, Van M. Savage, Ethan P. White, Felisa A. Smith, Elizabeth A. Hadly, John P. Haskell, S. Kathleen Lyons, Brian A. Maurer, Karl J. Niklas, Bruce Tiffney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

194 Scopus citations


Ecosystem properties result in part from the characteristics of individual organisms. How these individual traits scale to impact ecosystem-level processes is currently unclear. Because metabolism is a fundamental process underlying many individual- and population-level variables, it provides a mechanism for linking individual characteristics with large-scale processes. Here we use metabolism and ecosystem thermodynamics to scale from physiology to individual biomass production and population-level energy use. Temperature-corrected rates of individual-level biomass production show the same body-size dependence across a wide range of aerobic eukaryotes, from unicellular organisms to mammals and vascular plants. Population-level energy use for both mammals and plants are strongly influenced by both metabolism and thermodynamic constraints on energy exchange between trophic levels. Our results show that because metabolism is a fundamental trait of organisms, it not only provides a link between individual- and ecosystem-level processes, but can also highlight other important factors constraining ecological structure and dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)990-995
Number of pages6
JournalEcology letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2003


  • Allometry
  • Annual biomass production
  • Cross-taxonomic comparison
  • Energy use
  • Macroecology
  • Metabolism
  • Scaling
  • Trophic energy transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Thermodynamic and metabolic effects on the scaling of production and population energy use'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this