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Growth, death, and resource competition in sessile organisms

Population-level scaling in ecological systems arises from individual growth and death with competitive constraints.

We build on a minimal dynamical model of metabolic growth where the tension between individual growth and mortality determines population size distribution.

We then separately include resource competition based on shared capture area. By varying rates of growth, death, and competitive attrition, we connect regular and random spatial patterns across sessile organisms from forests to ants, termites, and fairy circles.

Then, we consider transient temporal dynamics in the context of asymmetric competition, such as canopy shading or large colony dominance, whose effects primarily weaken the smaller of two competitors.

When such competition couples slow timescales of growth to fast competitive death, it generates population shocks and demographic oscillations similar to those observed in forest data.

Our minimal quantitative theory unifies spatiotemporal patterns across sessile organisms through local competition mediated by the laws of metabolic growth, which in turn, are the result of long-term evolutionary dynamics.


E.D. Lee, C.P. Kempes, G.B. West, Growth, death, and resource competition in sessile organisms, PNAS 118 (15) e2020424118.

Eddie Lee, researcher at the Complexity Science Hub

Eddie Lee

Geoffrey West

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