An allometric model of home range formation explains the structuring of animal communities exploiting heterogeneous resources

Carsten M. Buchmann*, Frank M. Schurr, Ran Nathan, Florian Jeltsch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Understanding and predicting the composition and spatial structure of communities is a central challenge in ecology. An important structural property of animal communities is the distribution of individual home ranges. Home range formation is controlled by resource heterogeneity, the physiology and behaviour of individual animals, and their intra- and interspecific interactions. However, a quantitative mechanistic understanding of how home range formation influences community composition is still lacking. To explore the link between home range formation and community composition in heterogeneous landscapes we combine allometric relationships for physiological properties with an algorithm that selects optimal home ranges given locomotion costs, resource depletion and competition in a spatially-explicit individual-based modelling framework. From a spatial distribution of resources and an input distribution of animal body mass, our model predicts the size and location of individual home ranges as well as the individual size distribution (ISD) in an animal community. For a broad range of body mass input distributions, including empirical body mass distributions of North American and Australian mammals, our model predictions agree with independent data on the body mass scaling of home range size and individual abundance in terrestrial mammals. Model predictions are also robust against variation in habitat productivity and landscape heterogeneity. The combination of allometric relationships for locomotion costs and resource needs with resource competition in an optimal foraging framework enables us to scale from individual properties to the structure of animal communities in heterogeneous landscapes. The proposed spatially-explicit modelling concept not only allows for detailed investigation of landscape effects on animal communities, but also provides novel insights into the mechanisms by which resource competition in space shapes animal communities.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)106-118
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


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