NCEAS Project 7560

Allometry as a fundamental mechanism linking evolutionary and ecological pattern in vascular plants

  • Brian J. Enquist

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Postdoctoral Fellow1st September 1999—31st December 2000Participant List  

Traditionally, allometry has not been as important to the study of anatomy, physiology, and ecology as it has been in animal research. In animal studies, biological allometries can usually be characterized as quarter-power scaling relationships. The fact that quarter-power allometries emerge at multiple levels of biological organization (physiology, populations, life-histories) strongly suggests that one or a few critical mechanisms might link pattern and process within and between these levels. Recently, in collaboration with G. B. West and J.H. Brown, I have proposed a general hypothesis by which to mechanistically view biological allometries. This model is a deliberate oversimplification, however, we believe it captures the salient mechanisms dictating biological allometry. Most importantly, extensions of this model can accurately account for several allometric scaling relationships in vascular plants. Perhaps its biggest insight is that although plant and animals differ, allometrically they share numerous quarter-power allometric scaling relationships. The underlying assumption of this work is that allometry offers a window by which one can critically investigate fundamental mechanisms influencing plant structure, function, and evolution. I propose to explore and test the specific predictions of this model in vascular plants by using various empirical measurements of vascular anatomy and physiology, tied with computer simulation. The proposed research will specifically test the role of vascular systems in dictating plant architecture, evolution, and constraining ecological patterns in local communities. Overall, the project represents a unique and strongly multidisciplinary approach to basic biological questions. It will permit the examination of these questions over evolutionary instead of historical time spans. Insights gained from this proposal are likely to yield creative and predictive results pertaining to the movement of resources in the ecosystem and the extrapolation of plant form and ecology in paleoenvironments.

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Journal Article Enquist, Brian J.; West, Geoffrey B.; Charnov, Eric; Brown, James H. 1999. Allometric scaling of production and life-history variation in vascular plants. Nature. Vol: 401. Pages 907.
Journal Article Enquist, Brian J.; Leffler, A. Joshua. 2000. Long-term tree ring chronologies from sympatric tropical dry-forest trees: Individualistic responses to climate variation. Journal of Tropical Ecology. Vol: 17. Pages 41-60.
Journal Article Enquist, Brian J.; Niklas, Karl J. 2001. Invariant scaling relations across tree-dominated communities. Nature. Vol: 410. Pages 655-660.
Book Chapter Enquist, Brian J.; Haskell, John P.; Niklas, Karl J.; Tiffney, Bruce. 2001. The evolution of plant communities: Biodiversity and community. Edited by Levin, S.. Encyclopedia of Biodiversity. Academic Press. San Diego, CA. Pages 631-643.
Journal Article Enquist, Brian J.; Haskell, John P.; Tiffney, Bruce. 2002. General patterns of taxonomic and biomass partitioning in extant and fossil plant communities. Nature. Vol: 419. Pages 610-613.
Journal Article Enquist, Brian J.; Niklas, Karl J. 2002. Global allocation rules for patterns of biomass partitioning in seed plants. Science. Vol: 295. Pages 1517-1520.
Journal Article Enquist, Brian J. 2002. Universal scaling in tree and vascular plant allometry: Toward a general quantitative theory linking plant form and function from cells to ecosystems. Tree Physiology. Vol: 22. Pages 1045-1064.
Journal Article Enquist, Brian J. 2003. Cope's rule and the evolution of long distance transport in vascular plants: Allometric scaling, biomass partitioning and optimization. Plant Cell and Environment. Vol: 26. Pages 151-161.
Data Set Enquist, Brian J. 2006. Biomass allocation and growth data of seeded plants. (Online version)
Journal Article Niklas, Karl J.; Enquist, Brian J. 2001. Invariant scaling relationships for interspecific plant biomass production rates and body size. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vol: 98. Pages 2922-2927.
Journal Article Niklas, Karl J.; Enquist, Brian J. 2002. Canonical rules for plant organ biomass partitioning and annual allocation. American Journal of Botany. Vol: 89. Pages 812-819.
Journal Article Niklas, Karl J.; Enquist, Brian J. 2002. On the vegetative biomass partitioning of seed plant leaves, stems, and roots. American Naturalist. Vol: 159. Pages 482-497.
Journal Article Niklas, Karl J.; Enquist, Brian J. 2003. An allometric model for seed plant reproduction. Evolutionary Ecology Research. Vol: 5. Pages 79-88.