Scaling ecological patterns: emergence and covariations

Over the last few decades, macroecologists have identified a variety of ecological patterns that appear to be ubiquitous in nature, such as the species-area relationship and the scale invariance of the distribution of individual body sizes within an ecosystem. These patterns have attracted the interest of statistical physicists because of their apparent scale-invariance. In my research, I investigate the emergence of such scaling patterns and their covariations. I adopt a combination of theory, numerical simulations, microcosm experiments and data analysis of macroecological datasets. See our most recent work on ecological patterns covariations at: http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1708376114. See also the Commentary on our work at: http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1713971114. The article was featured on the Cover of PNAS vol. 114, no. 40: http://www.pnas.org/content/114/40.toc.pdf.

It is widely recognized that body size is a major determinant of individual metabolic rates (Kleiber's law) and species' interactions. In http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1301552110, we showed that intra-specific body size distributions of unicellular eukaryotes covering different phyla share universal features over more than four orders of magnitude in cell size. Our work identified a shared universal functional form for species' intra-specific body size distributions, and we showed that the variance of intra-specific body size distributions (i.e., the fluctuations in body size within a species) scales quadratically with the mean, an occurrence of Taylor's law. In http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1505882112, we showed that the widespread observation of Taylor's law in species' population abundances (with exponent b=2) may be strongly affected by insufficient sampling and may be an explanation for the widespread observation of the scaling exponent b=2.