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 of 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, community dynamics, 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 emergent large-scale patterns 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. We are particular interested in:

  • microcosm experiments simulating or manipulating mechanisms that mirror those operating at larger scales (e.g., species pools, environmental gradients, dispersal);
  • globally distributed experiments that span multiple regions or continents and address global scale hypotheses about ecosystem sensitivity to environmental change;
  • studies that combine transplant experiments and environmental manipulation across gradients (e.g., elevation);
  • studies integrating transplant experiments and remote tracking of individuals to investigate responses to changes in migrations and movement (e.g. artificial dispersal events);

This Special Issue 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 at large scales.

The 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 experiments with complementary, non-experimental tools (e.g., mathematical modeling and simulations, observational networks, paleoecological records, genomics). We are also particularly interested in submissions coming from underrepresented geographic areas. 

This special issue will be edited by two guest editors, and two of our own subject editors, all of whom are internationally recognized-experts in the fields of ecology and biogeography: Dr Amy Freestone from Temple University (USA), Dr Jake Alexander from ETH Zürich (Switzerland), Dr Vigdis Vandvik from University of Bergen, Norway, and Dr Miguel Matias from MNCN-CSIC, Madrid, Spain.

Due to the level of scientific excellence that we desire for this special issue, we encourage applicants to contact the two subject editors (vigdis [dot] Vandvik [at] uib [dot] no and miguel [dot] matias [at] mncn [dot] csic [dot] es) to discuss further the theme they wish to develop in their article, before any submission. Please submit your proposal by 31 October 2023.  The proposal should contain: a title, tentative list of authors along with their affiliations and email address, article type (i.e., review, synthesis, technical note, bibliometric study, original empirical study) and a summary of ~500 words discussing the originality/novelty of the work, including its aim, methods, and expected outcomes, plus 5-6 important recent scientific references related to the work. Please also note that once encouraged to submit a full paper (tentative date for announcement is expected to be mif June, and deadline for full article submission 31 January 2024), your work will go through a regular peer-review process.