Heterogeneous ‘proportionality constants’ – A challenge to Taylor's Power Law for temporal fluctuations in abundance

M. Kiflawi, O. Mann, Mark Meekan

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1 Citation (Scopus)


© 2016 Elsevier LtdTaylor's Power Law for the temporal fluctuation in population size (TL) posits that the variance in abundance scales according to aM b; where M is the mean abundance and a and b are the ‘proportionality’ and ‘scaling’ coefficients. As one of the few empirical rules in population ecology, TL has attracted substantial theoretical and empirical attention. Much of this attention focused on the scaling coefficient; particularly its ubiquitous deviation from the null value of 2. Here we present a line of reasoning that challenges the power-law interpretation of the empirical log-linear relationship between the mean and variance of population size. At the core of our reasoning is the proposition that populations vary not only with respect to M but also with respect to a; which leaves the log-linear relationship intact but forfeits its power-law interpretation. Using the stochastic logistic-growth model as an example, we show that ignoring among-population variation in a is akin to ignoring the variation in the intrinsic rate of growth (r). Accordingly, we show that the slope of the log-linear relationship (b) is a function of the among-population (co)variation in r and the carrying-capacity. We further demonstrate that local environmental stochasticity is sufficient to generate the full range of observed values of b, and that b can in fact be insensitive to substantial differences in the balance between variance-generating and stabilizing processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-160
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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