Metabolism is to Ecology as Genetics is to Evolution?

EXTRA CEES Seminar by James H. Brown.


Ecology is central to understanding both the natural environment and the increasing impacts of humans on the earth’s climate, ecosystems, and biodiversity. It is perhaps surprising, therefore, that ecology lacks a unifying conceptual framework. We suggest that the metabolism of organisms provides a basis for an ecological synthesis, similar to the genetic basis for evolution provided by the ”modern synthesis”. Metabolism is the transformation of energy and materials by individual organisms, and it also includes the uptake of resources from the environment and the allocation of resources to survival, growth, and reproduction. Our ”metabolic theory of ecology” uses the effects of body size and temperature on metabolism to predict many ecological relationships, including: 


  1. resource requirements and life-history traits of organisms;
  2. rates of population growth, species interactions, and biogeochemical processes;
  3. patterns of species diversity; and iv) environmental consequences of human activities.

James H. Brown, Distinguished Professor of Biology
University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

Published Feb. 3, 2012 3:52 PM - Last modified Mar. 8, 2021 10:15 AM