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[ The sap-feeding plant bug Lopidea media is a specialist on Solidago goldenrod plants. The study by Schmitz and Price compares the interaction strengths of this and several other sap-feeding and leaf- chewing insect herbivores in experimentally assembled food webs in a Connecticut USA meadow. Photo courtesy of Dror Hawlena. ]

Schmitz, O.J. & Price, J.R. (2011) Convergence of tr-ophic interaction strengths in grassland food webs through metabolic scaling of herbivore biomass. Journal of Animal Ecology. 80, 1330–1336.

Body mass measures provide a tantalizing tool for explaining both variation in emergent community-level patterns and as a mechanistic basis for fundamental processes such as metabolism, consumption and competition. The unification of body mass, abundance and food web (ecological network) structure in community ecology is an effective way to explore future scenarios of environmental change. However, constraints over the availability of data against which to validate model predictions limit the application of size-based approaches. Here, I explore issues over the use of body size for predicting interaction strengths and hence the dynamics of natural ecosystems. The advantages, disadvantages, opportunities and limitations of such approaches are explored.