Part-whole relations between food webs and the validity of local food-web descriptions

Axel Rossberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This work analyzes the relationship between large food webs describing potential feeding relations between species and smaller sub-webs thereof describing relations actually realized in local communities of various sizes. Special attention is given to the relationships between patterns of phylogenetic correlations encountered in large webs and sub-webs. Based on the current theory of food-web topology as implemented in the matching model, it is shown that food webs are scale invariant in the following sense: given a large web described by the model, a smaller, randomly sampled sub-web thereof is described by the model as well. A stochastic analysis of model steady states reveals that such a change in scale goes along with a re-normalization of model parameters. Explicit formulae for the renormalized parameters are derived. Thus, the topology of food webs at all scales follows the same patterns, and these can be revealed by data and models referring to the local scale alone. As a by-product of the theory, a fast algorithm is derived which yields sample food webs from the exact steady state of the matching model for a high-dimensional trophic niche space in finite time. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-131
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Complexity
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Ecology


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