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Allometric Scaling of Production and Life History Variation in Vascular Plants


  • Brian J. Enquist
  • Geoffrey B. West
  • Eric L. Charnov
  • James H. Brown


A prominent feature of comparative life histories in the well documented negative correlation between growth rate and life span [1,2]. Patterns of resource allocation during growth reflect life-history differences between species [1,2]. This is particularly striking in tropical forests, where tree species can differ greatly in their rates of growth and ages of maturity but still attain similar canopy sizes [3,4]. We provide a theoretical framework to relate life-history variables to rates of production partial M/partial t, where M is above ground body mass and t is time. Assuming that metabolic rate limits production as an individual grows, partial M/partial t proportional to M3/4 and incorporating interspecific variation in wood density we derive a universal growth law which quantitatively fits data for large sample of tropical tree species with diverse life histories. Combined with evolutionary life-history theory, [1] the growth law also predicts several qualitative features of tree demography and reproduction. This framework also provides a general answer to why relative growth rate 1/M(partial M/partial t) decreases with increasing plant size and varies differing allocation strategies [5-8].

Suggested Citation

  • Brian J. Enquist & Geoffrey B. West & Eric L. Charnov & James H. Brown, 1999. "Allometric Scaling of Production and Life History Variation in Vascular Plants," Working Papers 99-10-072, Santa Fe Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:99-10-072

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    Allometry; scaling; plant life history.;

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