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Tree Physiol. 2002 Nov;22(15-16):1045-64.

Universal scaling in tree and vascular plant allometry: toward a general quantitative theory linking plant form and function from cells to ecosystems.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.


A general theory of allometric scaling that predicts how the proportions of vascular plants and the characteristics of plant communities change or scale with plant size is outlined. The theory rests, in part, on the assumptions of (1) minimal energy dissipation in the transport of fluid through space-filling, fractal-like, branching vascular networks; and (2) the absence of scaling with plant size in the anatomical and physiological attributes of leaves and xylem. The theory shows how the scaling of metabolism with plant size is central to the scaling of whole-plant form and function. It is shown how allometric constraints influence plant populations and, potentially, processes in plant evolution. Rapidly accumulating evidence in support of the general allometric model is reviewed and new evidence is presented. Current work supports the notion that scaling of how plants utilize space and resources is central to the development of a general synthetic and quantitative theory of plant form, function, ecology and diversity.

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