A simple explanation for universal scaling relations in food webs

  • van Veen F
  • Murrell D
  • 1


    Mendeley users who have this article in their library.
  • N/A


    Citations of this article.


Much of the interest in food webs has been driven by a search for universal patterns that could indicate common organizing principles. In an approach that treats food webs as transportation networks (represented by minimum spanning trees) it was recently shown that food webs exhibit universal scaling relations, analogous to those found in river networks and vascular systems. It was concluded that this pattern is due to an optimization process acting in ecological communities. Here we construct minimum spanning trees using Monte Carlo simulations of a simple model that has two parameters that control the proportion of basal species and limit food-chain length, respectively. We show that when the food-chain length is of a similar size to that reported for real food webs, the universal scaling relations readily emerge in the model. This result is robust in a wide range of values for the proportion of basal species. We therefore conclude that the processes that limit food-chain length in ecological communities are sufficient to explain the observed universal scaling relations in food webs, and that complicated adaptive explanations are not required.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Comprehensive Zoology
  • Ecology
  • Food webs
  • Trophic structure
  • Universal scaling relations
  • explanation
  • simple

Get free article suggestions today

Mendeley saves you time finding and organizing research

Sign up here
Already have an account ?Sign in

Find this document


  • F J Frank van Veen

  • David J Murrell

Cite this document

Choose a citation style from the tabs below

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free