Effects of predator diet breadth on stability of size spectra

M. J. Plank


Many marine ecosystems have the remarkable property that the abundance of organisms of a given body size is approximately proportional to the inverse square of that size. Size-structured models have been developed for which this “invariance-of-biomass” state is an equilibrium solution. These models are built on the coupling of predator growth to prey abundance, where prey suitability is determined by a size-based function referred to as a feeding kernel. In this paper, the local stability of the equilibrium state is investigated in a limiting case where predators only consume prey of a preferred size. In this special case, it is shown analytically that the equilibrium state is always unstable. It is concluded that some degree of diet breadth, in terms of the range of prey sizes consumed by a predator, is an essential prerequisite for the invariance-of-biomass state to be stable, as widely observed in the field.



body mass, ecosystem dynamics, McKendrick–von Foerster equation, predator, prey, size-structured model.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21914/anziamj.v53i0.4773

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ANZIAM Journal, ISSN 1446-8735, copyright Australian Mathematical Society.