A number of investigators have interpreted the slope of a linear production-resource relationship as a measure of efficiency of resource utilization. However, this is rarely true and may lead to incorrect conclusions. Here, by means of simple mathematical equations and conceptual definitions, we point out the theoretical differences between slope and efficiency. While a slope represents the change in the dependent variable per unit change in the independent variable, efficiency expresses the amount of output produced by a unit amount of input. Practical implications of using slopes as indicators of resource-use efficiency are less important as the resource amount increases. Slopes may be used as indicators of the sensitivity of production to changes in input, which is by itself an interesting property of biological systems. Finally, production function intercepts determine whether the efficiency will decrease, increase, or remain constant as resources increase.
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Vol. 16 • No. 3