Discontinuities, cross-scale patterns and the organization of ecosystems

Author(s): Nash, K.L., Allen, C.R., Angeler, D.G., Barichievy, C., Eason, T., Garmestani, A.S., Graham, N.A.J., Granholm, D., Knutson, M., R. John Nelson, Magnus Nyström, Craig A. Stow
In: Ecology :130906040516000, doi:10.1890/13-1315.1
Year: 2013
Type: Journal / article
Theme affiliation: Marine
Link to centre authors: Nyström, Magnus
Full reference: Nash, K.L., Allen, C.R., Angeler, D.G., Barichievy, C., Eason, T., Garmestani, A.S., Graham, N.A.J., Granholm, D., Knutson, M., R. John Nelson, Magnus Nyström, Craig A. Stow, Shana M. Sundstrom (2013) Discontinuities, cross-scale patterns and the organization of ecosystems, Ecology :130906040516000, doi:10.1890/13-1315.1

Summary

Ecological structures and processes occur at specific spatio-temporal scales, and interactions that occur across multiple scales mediate scale-specific (e.g. individual, community, local or regional) responses to disturbance. Despite the importance of scale, explicitly incorporating a multi-scale perspective into research and management actions remains a challenge. The discontinuity hypothesis provides a fertile avenue for addressing this problem, by linking measureable proxies to inherent scales of structure within ecosystems. Here we outline the conceptual framework underlying discontinuities, and review the evidence supporting the discontinuity hypothesis in ecological systems. Next we explore the utility of this approach for understanding cross-scale patterns and the organization of ecosystems by describing recent advances for examining non-linear responses to disturbance, and phenomena such as extinctions, invasions, and resilience. To stimulate new research, we present methods for performing discontinuity analysis, detail outstanding knowledge gaps, and discuss potential approaches for addressing these gaps.

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