Call for papers: Towards Experimental Macroecology

Submitted by editor on 8 December 2022.

Global environmental changes are affecting biological systems across the planet, but limited understanding of ecological dynamics and feedbacks hampers predictive understanding of such effects. Macroecology (“the ecology of large scales”) has long focused on explaining patterns in the distribution or organization of ecological entities (e.g., species, assemblages, ecosystems) across broad spatial, temporal or taxonomical scales. Increased demand for predictions on the consequences of global change to better inform conservation, management, and adaptation strategies, has been a major driver of the development of process or mechanistic-based models.

However, the incorporation of cause-effect relationships in models is still hampered by the traditional compartmentalization of ecological approaches (empirical, experimental, theoretical, and computational) required for studying interactions among organisms and interactions between organisms and their environment.

Moreover, designing experiments that are relevant for large-scale theory and practice is challenging in and on itself. In recent years, there has been increased interest in the development of experimental studies at broader spatial scales to help predict patterns in species distributions and the consequences of global change. Consequently, there has been a burgeoning of a wide range of experimental approaches at our disposal – from microcosms to increasingly common, globally replicated, small-scale experiments –that can directly test some of the processes underlying large-scale patterns.

Ecography is launching a Special Issue called “Towards Experimental Macroecology” aiming to highlight studies that incorporate experimental work in order to understand large spatial, temporal and/or taxonomic scales in macroecology. This SI will include papers describing experimental studies focused on establishing causal links between local processes and species distributions with clear consideration of grain (i.e. size of observational unit) and extent (i.e. dimensions of study area; region, continent, etc.) and their implications. Studies might include microcosm experiments; globally distributed experiments; whole-ecosystem experiments; transplant experiments, or remote-tracking experiments.

This SI will be open to all paper formats including perspective papers discussing the challenges and opportunities for implementing experimental macroecological approaches, as well as those defining standards and boundaries of the field, or more classic research papers. Authors will be asked to carefully consider and define the grain and extent of their studies as a basis for establishing the implications of their results to our understanding of patterns across at large scales.

This Special Issue will contribute to synthesizing progress and identify opportunities in this field, and will welcome multidisciplinary approaches (e.g., biogeography, community, and molecular ecology) that combine experimental approaches with complementary, non-experimental approaches (e.g., simulations, observational networks, paleoecological records, genomics).

Submissions open 15 January 2023. Stay tuned for more information.