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Am Nat. 2008 Jul;172(1):88-101. doi: 10.1086/588044.

Exploring predictions of abundance from body mass using hierarchical comparative approaches.

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Department of Biology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec H1A 1B1, Canada.


Understanding and predicting how and why abundance varies is one of the central questions in ecology. One of the few consistent predictors of variation in abundance between species has been body mass, but the nature of this relationship has been contentious. Here I explore the relationship between body mass and abundance in birds of North America, using hierarchical partitioning of variance and regressions at taxonomic levels above the species. These analyses show that much variation in abundance is found across space, while a moderate amount of variation is found at the species/genus and also at the family/order level. However, body size and trophic level primarily vary at the family/order level, suggesting that mechanisms based on body size and energy should primarily explain only this moderate-sized, taxonomically conserved component of variation in abundance. Body size does explain more than 50% of the variation at this level (and almost 75% when trophic level is also included). This tighter relationship makes clear that energetic equivalence (slope = -3/4) sets an upper limit but does not describe the relationship between body mass and average abundance for birds of North America. Finally, I suggest that this hierarchical, multivariate approach should be used more often in macroecology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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