Ecological scale and context dependence

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It is common in ecology for the relationship between two variables to differ (or appear to differ) depending on the circumstances under which the relationship is observed. This ‘context dependence’ can harm attempts at ecological synthesis and may be caused by a variety of factors. In this chapter, we explore how study scale can create context dependence, and alter our interpretation of ecological processes. We start by showing how the two key components of study scale (grain and extent) manifest across time and space, and how they may produce inconsistencies between studies. We then provide two extended examples of how scale interacts with other possible sources of context dependence, to highlight the critical thought required when comparing or synthesising results from disparate studies. Along the way, we consider the complexity of correcting for scale, the similarities and differences between temporal and spatial scale, and the opportunities presented by a careful consideration of scale when designing and carrying out ecological research.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEffective Ecology
Subtitle of host publicationSeeking Success in a Hard Science
PublisherCRC Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781000923629
ISBN (Print)9781032322940
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


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