Variability in population abundance is associated with thresholds between scaling regimes

Donald Wardwell, Craig R. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Discontinuous structure in landscapes may result in discontinuous, aggregated species body-mass patterns, reflecting the scales of structure available to animal communities within a landscape. The edges of these body-mass aggregations reflect transitions between available scales of landscape structure. Such transitions, or scale breaks, are theoretically associated with increased biological variability. We hypothesized that variability in population abundance is greater in animal species near the edge of body-mass aggregations than it is in species that are situated in the interior of body-mass aggregations. We tested this hypothesis by examining both temporal and spatial variability in the abundance of species in the bird community of the Florida Everglades sub-ecoregion, USA. Analyses of both temporal and spatial variability in population abundance supported our hypothesis. Our results indicate that variability within complex systems may be non-random, and is heightened where transitions in scales of process and structure occur. This is the first explicit test of the hypothetical relationship between increased population variability and scale breaks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Body mass
  • Breeding bird survey
  • Everglades
  • Phase transition
  • Scale
  • Textural discontinuity hypothesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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