Population Ecology

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 105–117 | Cite as

Spatial hierarchical approach in community ecology: a way beyond high context-dependency and low predictability in local phenomena

  • Takashi NodaEmail author
Forum Special Feature: Multiple spatial scale approaches in population and community ecology


Patterns and functioning of communities, which are determined by a set of processes operating at a large variety of spatial and temporal scales, exhibit quite high context-dependency and low predictability at the fine spatial scales at which recent studies have concentrated. More attention to broader scale and across-scale phenomena may be useful to search for general patterns and rules in communities. In this context, it is effective to incorporate hierarchical spatial scale explicitly into the experimental and sampling design of field studies, an approach referred to here as the spatial hierarchical approach, focusing on a particular assemblage in which biological interaction and species life history are well known. The spatial hierarchical approach can provide insight into the effects of scale in operating processes and answers to a number of important questions in community ecology such as: (1) detection of patterns and processes in spatiotemporal variability in communities, including how to explain the partitioning of pattern information of species diversity at a broad scale into finer scales, and the pattern of spatial variability of community properties at the finest spatial scale; (2) evaluation of changes in patterns observed in macroecology at finer scales; (3) testing of models explaining the coexistence of competing species; and (4) detection of latitudinal patterns in spatiotemporal variability in communities and their causal processes.


Spatial scale Level Research approach Community structure Detecting patterns 



I would like to thank M. Hori, Y. Miyamoto, M. Nakaoka, and A.S. Ilano for their valuable comments regarding the early draft. This manuscript benefitted from the comments of two anonymous reviewers.


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© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer-Verlag Tokyo 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Fisheries SciencesHokkaido UniversityHakodate 041-8611Japan

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