Macalester Reviews in Biogeography


Understanding the way in which biodiversity is created and maintained is the fundamental goal of applied ecology. In order to comprehend how diversity is distributed and isolate the factors contributing to diversity, multiple scales of study must be considered. Studies which base their conclusions on an isolated snapshot of an ecological system find their results challenged by considering both historical and spatial scales. The question of scale: its definition, the relevant scale at which biological processes produce observable patterns, the translation from small to large scales and the theoretical and technological complications scale presents, remain contentious issues in ecology. This review investigates the current definitions of scale, arguments over the importance of various scales, and the use of scalar components in research. Secondly, it looks at how careful consideration of scale gives rise to various limitations and complications of ecological studies. Finally, it addresses the difficulty of scaling up, from local to regional, through ecosystems. The question of scale is then applied to grassland management, a biome both vital to biodiversity and human use, in order to concretize theoretical arguments and provide direction to management. This review is conducted to generate a greater comprehension of scalar applications to future research, the contingency of current conclusions based on scalar limits will, and how this knowledge can be applied to aid management that engages all scales in order to preserve diversity.