Linking Landscape Ecology and Macroecology by Scaling Biodiversity in Space and Time


Purpose of Review

Despite the decades-long recognition of the importance of scaling in ecology, our knowledge about many ecological patterns and processes is still largely restricted to particular spatial and temporal scale domains with relatively narrow ranges. There is no exception when it comes to the study of biodiversity, one of the most important and active research fields in ecology. Increasing work suggests that such narrow ranges of scales are in most cases inadequate for addressing conservation challenges associated with biodiversity change. The need for understanding how biodiversity is shaped and will change across different scales is stronger than ever.

Recent Findings

Here, we review recent progresses of up-scaling and down-scaling biodiversity in the context of global environmental change, with focus on two relatively large spatial scale domains, i.e., the landscape and macroecological scales. Landscape ecology and macroecology are both active, but so-far poorly connected research fields. They share a common central motivation of unraveling spatial patterning of biodiversity and the underlying mechanisms. Our literature review suggests that landscape-scale processes may exert unexpected up-scaling effects to shape biodiversity patterns at macroecological scales, while macroecological processes may generate a range of down-scaling effects on landscape biodiversity. Specifically, although there is a lack of consensus on the underlying mechanisms, it is likely that landscape processes scale up through connectivity and feedback loops within and across landscapes to affect macroecological biodiversity responses. On the other hand, the down-scaling effects of macroecological processes on biodiversity is often confounded with small-scale processes, leading to various responses inconsistent with direct down-scaling extrapolations. In addition, the temporal dimension is indispensable to investigating effects and mechanisms of cross-scale processes. Specifically, long-term (decades and beyond) perspectives are necessary for re-evaluating ecological knowledge obtained from biodiversity responses to short-term environmental changes and recognizing historical legacies of both landscape and macroecological processes on biodiversity at the two spatial scales.


Overall, scaling analyses of ecological processes across spatial extents ranging from small habitats to the globe have revealed biodiversity responses to anthropogenic environmental changes as inconsistent with assumptions and extrapolations based on extant ecological knowledge at a few fixed scales. Such analyses are needed to better inform conservation actions and planning practiced mainly at local to macroecological scales. We suggest that elucidating cross-scaling mechanisms and accumulating long-term time series at multiple spatial scales are key to linking landscape ecology and macroecology in terms of biodiversity dynamics. Such efforts would be an important contribution to the ecological basis for managing biodiversity change in the Anthropocene, as these dynamics involve multiple up-scaling and down-scaling processes over time.

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Fig. 1


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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This work is supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (2017YFC0506200). CX acknowledges the support of National Natural Science Foundation of China (31770512), the CTF Foundation and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (020814380112). SNT acknowledges the financial support of Postdoctoral International Exchange Program by China Postdoctoral Council and China Postdoctoral Science Foundation Grant 2019 M660110. JCS considers this work a contribution to his VILLUM Investigator project “Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World” funded by VILLUM FONDEN (grant 16549). JS is financed by the FEDER Funds through the Operational Competitiveness Factors Program-COMPETE and by National Funds through FCT-Foundation for Science and Technology within the scope of the project “PTDC/BIA-EVL/30931/2017-POCI-01-0145-FEDER-030931”. Luís Reino was funded by Portuguese National Funds through FCT, I.P., under the program of ‘Stimulus of Scientific Employment–Individual Support under the contract CEECIND/00445/2017. SA and CX are funded by CONICYT-FONDECYT grant 1170995.

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Correspondence to Shuqing N. Teng or Chi Xu.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Spatial Scale-Measurement, Influence, and Integration

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Teng, S.N., Svenning, JC., Santana, J. et al. Linking Landscape Ecology and Macroecology by Scaling Biodiversity in Space and Time. Curr Landscape Ecol Rep 5, 25–34 (2020).

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  • Cross-scale
  • Up-scaling
  • Down-scaling
  • Anthropogenic global change
  • Anthropocene
  • Land use change