Macroecology - state of the art
Life on Earth is not evenly distributed. The identification and description of large-scale diversity patterns and the determination of the underlying processes has challenged and intrigued biogeographers and ecologists since the days of Wallace and Darwin. Especially geographic gradients in species richness have long been of interest to biogeographers (e.g., von Humboldt, Wallace), ecologists (Warming), and evolutionary biologists (Dobzhansky), and are thought to reflect underlying geographical gradients in a great variety of ecological and evolutionary factors. Despite almost two centuries of research, the proximate and ultimate causes of the large-scale spatial distribution of diversity continue to galvanize scientific debate and drive hypothesis testing in macroecology.
Macroecology is the study of the distribution of life and its attributes across the Earth. It is concerned with the way biological particles, e.g., species, range sizes, abundances, body masses and life history traits are spatially distributed in time, in relation to the division of resources and space. Crudely generalized, macroecology is focused on a ”global model” approach with respect to the choice of question, sampling design, and analytical tools. Thus, rather than tallying results on an ad hoc basis from individual cases and species studies, macroecology attempts to provide answers that can be broadly generalized, while having high global predictive powers. Macroecology attempts to use natural variation as observed in nature to disentangle processes from patterns, in order to identify general mechanisms or “ecological laws”.
Internationally, macroecology is a research area that has recently received much focus. If we are to manage biodiversity globally and nationally, today and in the future, there is broad consensus among prominent scientists that we must embark on the challenging enterprise of describing patterns, revealing mechanisms, and identifying processes to effectively achieve the identification and management of areas of importance to biodiversity.