Environmental correlates of food chain length

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Science  13 Nov 1987:
Vol. 238, Issue 4829, pp. 956-960
DOI: 10.1126/science.3672136


In 113 community food webs from natural communities, the average and maximal lengths of food chains are independent of primary productivity, contrary to the hypothesis that longer food chains should arise when more energy is available at their base. Environmental variability alone also does not appear to constrain average or maximal chain length. Environments that are three dimensional or solid, however, such as a forest canopy or the water column of the open ocean, have distinctly longer food chains than environments that are two dimensional or flat, such as a grassland or lake bottom.