Self-similarity and scaling in forest communities

Filippo Simini, Tommaso Anfodillo, Marco Carrer, Jayanth R. Banavar*, Amos Maritan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Ecological communities exhibit pervasive patterns and interrelationships between size, abundance, and the availability of resources. We use scaling ideas to develop a unified, model-independent framework for understanding the distribution of tree sizes, their energy use, and spatial distribution in tropical forests. We demonstrate that the scaling of the tree crown at the individual level drives the forest structure when resources are fully used. Our predictions match perfectly with the scaling behavior of an exactly solvable self-similar model of a forest and are in good accord with empirical data. The range, over which pure power law behavior is observed, depends on the available amount of resources. The scaling framework can be used for assessing the effects of natural and anthropogenic disturbances on ecosystem structure and functionality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7658-7662
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2010


  • allometry
  • tree shape
  • metabolic efficiency
  • energy equivalence principle
  • distribution of tree sizes
  • finite size scaling

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