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PLOS ONE  2008 

Trade-Offs between the Metabolic Rate and Population Density of Plants

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001799

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Abstract:

The energetic equivalence rule, which is based on a combination of metabolic theory and the self-thinning rule, is one of the fundamental laws of nature. However, there is a progressively increasing body of evidence that scaling relationships of metabolic rate vs. body mass and population density vs. body mass are variable and deviate from their respective theoretical values of 3/4 and ?3/4 or ?2/3. These findings questioned the previous hypotheses of energetic equivalence rule in plants. Here we examined the allometric relationships between photosynthetic mass (Mp) or leaf mass (ML) vs. body mass (β); population density vs. body mass (δ); and leaf mass vs. population density, for desert shrubs, trees, and herbaceous plants, respectively. As expected, the allometric relationships for both photosynthetic mass (i.e. metabolic rate) and population density varied with the environmental conditions. However, the ratio between the two exponents was ?1 (i.e. β/δ = ?1) and followed the trade-off principle when local resources were limited. Our results demonstrate for the first time that the energetic equivalence rule of plants is based on trade-offs between the variable metabolic rate and population density rather than their constant allometric exponents.

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