Allometric scaling of maximum population density

A common rule for marine phytoplankton and terrestrial plants

Andrea Belgrano*, Andrew P. Allen, Brian J. Enquist, James F. Gillooly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalShort survey

96 Citations (Scopus)


A primary goal of macroecology is to identify principles that apply across varied ecosystems and taxonomic groups. Here we show that the allometric relationship observed between maximum abundance and body size for terrestrial plants can be extended to predict maximum population densities of marine phytoplankton. These results imply that the abundance of primary producers is similarly constrained in terrestrial and marine systems by rates of energy supply as dictated by a common allometric scaling law. They also highlight the existence of general mechanisms linking rates of individual metabolism to emergent properties of ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-613
Number of pages3
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Allometry
  • Energetic equivalence
  • Marine phytoplankton
  • Metabolic scaling theory
  • Population abundance
  • Terrestrial plants

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