Scaling theory: Application to marine ornithology

  • Schneider D
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The problem of scale has three components: (a) direct measurement is usually confined to small areas and brief periods, (b) the most pressing issues occur at the scale of ecosystems and decades, but (c) direct scale-up fails when pattern and process at small scales differ from those at larger scales. Recognition of this dilemma has grown exponentially since around 1980. The problem of scale is particularly acute for seabirds, which inhabit one of the most extensive habitats on the planet--the surface of the ocean. The application of power laws is a promising solution to the problem. Power laws have a long empirical tradition, are readily estimated from data, and now have a theoretical basis. Power law behavior (with nonintegral exponents) appears in systems with episodically warring exponential rates. In marine ornithology, examples of areas where power laws can be applied include patchy spatial distributions, the association of predator with prey, the scaling of food intake to body size, and fractal habitat structure. Scaling theory and power laws are applicable to a wide variety of ecosystem phenomena and dynamics, including fluxes of material and energy

Author-supplied keywords

  • Fractals
  • Marine ornithology
  • Multiscale analysis
  • Power laws
  • Seabirds
  • Spatial scale
  • Temporal scale

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  • David C. Schneider

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