Mass invariance of population nitrogen flux by terrestrial mammalian herbivores: an extension of the energetic equivalence rule


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According to the energetic equivalence rule, energy use by a population is independent of average adult body mass. Energy use can be equated with carbon flux, and it has been suggested that population fluxes of other materials, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, might also be independent of body mass. We compiled data on individual nitrogen deposition rates (via faeces and urine) and average population densities of 26 species of mammalian herbivores to test the hypothesis of elemental equivalence for nitrogen. We found that the mass scaling of individual nitrogen flux was opposite to that of population density for the species in our dataset. By computing the product of individual nitrogen flux and average population density for each species in our dataset, we found that population-level nitrogen flux was independent of species mass, averaging c. 3.22 g N ha−1 day−1. Results from this analysis can be used to understand the influence of mammalian herbivore communities on nitrogen cycling in terrestrial ecosystems.