Lennart Persson

Contact Information


Professor emeritus


Works at:

Ecology and Environmental Sciences


Umeå universitet
SE-901 87 Umeå

Visiting Address:

KBC-huset, plan 4, Linnaeus väg 6, Umeå, A4-34-15


+46 90 786 63 16


lennart.persson@umu.seEmail 2

lennart.persson@emg.umu.seEmail 1


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Web Page:

http://www.emg.umu.se/om-institutionen/personal/persson-lennart Web Page
http://www.emg.umu.se/english/about-the-department/staff/persson-lennart Web Page


Most organisms on Earth undergo major changes in size and/or morphology over their life cycle and the rate by which these changes occur is generally dependent on food supply. In many organisms this involves a change in individual weight many orders of magnitude from that the individual starts to search for resources independently until it reaches maturity. In fact, even in unicellular organisms will the individual cell exhibit at least a doubling (often more) in weight from cell division up to mitosis. This ubiquitous presence of ontogenetic development among organisms sharply contrasts to contemporary ecological theory as presented in standard textbooks where population dynamics is defined as fluctuations in time and space in number of individuals only and ontogenetic variation is totally ignored.

My research interest has over my whole scientific career delt with the implications of ontogenetic variation on population and community processes. Research approaches used include experimental studies from laboratory systems to whole lake experiments, long-term field studies and theoretical modeling. My research has since more than 20 years been carried out in close collaboration with my colleague and friend André M. de Roos, a theoretical biologist at the University of Amsterdam.

Our research has now reached a state of conceptualization where we propose a novel general theory of ecology. In this generic theory, contemporary unstructured ecological theory represents a limiting case only with ontogenetic symmetry within a richer generic theory that also includes ontogenetic asymmetry. Ontogenetic symmetry is defined as the special case when mass-specific rates of biomass production through somatic growth and reproduction and biomass loss through mortality are independent of body size. In all other cases ontogenetic asymmetry prevails. Ontogenetic asymmetry has major implications for both community structure and population dynamics. You can read more about this in our book Population and Community Ecology of Ontogenetic Development recently published in the Princeton University, Monographs in Population Biology Series.

You can also view a seminar (YouTube) entitled Symmetry breaking in ecological systems through different energetic efficiencies of juveniles and adults – a new paradigm unfolds? where I synthesize the main aspects of our present thinking. Also check 4 webinars by André De Roos that cover the most salient results of our book (http://staff.science.uva.nl/~aroos/Research/Webinars/index.html).

Publications 2004-



Year sorteringsordning


ten Brink, Hanna
Mazumdar, Abul Kalam Azad
Huddart, Joseph; et al.

Do intraspecific or interspecific interactions determine responses to predators feeding on a shared size-structured prey community?
Journal of Animal Ecology, 84(2): 414-426



Gårdmark, Anna
Casini, Michele
Huss, Magnus; et al.

Regime shifts in exploited marine food webs: detecting mechanisms underlying alternative stable states using size-structured community dynamics theory
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences, 370(1659): 20130262-



Reichstein, Birte
Persson, Lennart
De Roos, Andre M.

Ontogenetic asymmetry modulates population biomass production and response to harvest
Nature Communications, 6



Persson, Lennart
Van Leeuwen, Anieke
De Roos, Andre M.

The ecological foundation for ecosystem-based management of fisheries: mechanistic linkages between the individual-, population-, and community-level dynamics
ICES Journal of Marine Science, 71(8): 2268-2280



Jäger, Christoph G.
Vrede, Tobias
Persson, Lennart; et al.

Interactions between metazoans, autotrophs, mixotrophs and bacterioplankton in nutrient-depleted high DOC environments: a long-term experiment
Freshwater Biology, 59(8): 1596-1607



Huss, Magnus
Persson, Lennart
Borcherding, Jost; et al.

Timing of the diet shift from zooplankton to macroinvertebrates and size at maturity determine whether normally piscivorous fish can persist in otherwise fishless lakes
Freshwater Biology, 58(7): 1416-1424



Persson, Lennart
Amundsen, Per Arne
De Roos, Andre M.; et al.

Density-dependent interactions in an Arctic char - brown trout system: competition, predation, or both?
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 70(4): 610-616



De Roos, Andre M.
Metz, Johan A. J.
Persson, Lennart

Ontogenetic symmetry and asymmetry in energetics
Journal of Mathematical Biology, 66(4-5): 889-914



Reichstein, Birte
Schröder, Arne
Persson, Lennart; et al.

Habitat complexity does not promote coexistence in a size-structured intraguild predation system
Journal of Animal Ecology, 82(1): 55-63



van Leeuwen, Anieke
Huss, Magnus
Gardmark, Anna; et al.

Predators with multiple ontogenetic niche shifts have limited potential for population growth and top-down control of their prey
American Naturalist, 182(1): 53-66



Page Editor: Elisabet Carlborg

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Research area

Freshwater ecology

Video:Symmetry breaking in ecological systems


Symmetry breaking in ecological systems through different energetic efficiencies of juveniles and adults – a new paradigm unfolds?

Lennart Persson, professor in Aquatic Ecology, Umeå university.