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Am Nat. 2010 Oct;176(4):385-93. doi: 10.1086/656273.

Macroecology: does it ignore or can it encourage further ecological syntheses based on spatially local experimental manipulations? (American Society of Naturalists address).

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Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, 98195, USA.


Detailed natural history coupled to experimental ecology has provided a rich harvest of insights into how natural communities in all ecosystems function, insights that cannot be gleaned from macroecological analyses. That detail, generated by small-spatial-scale but often lengthy experiments, is essential to managing and even restoring ecosystems. My essay focuses primarily on the ecology of exposed rocky intertidal shores, but I believe the derived implications are generalizable to all ecosystems. A mainly experimental approach has tended to avoid a preoccupation with niches but instead has focused on the ecological roles exercised by particular species. Attention to roles has produced a growing appreciation for trophic cascades and their consequences, with obvious implications for the management of fisheries and the conservation significance of apex predators. Some studies are more phenomenological and others more reductionist in focus, but all provide pathways toward understanding abundance and body size variation or a miscellany of indirect effects. Microecology in all ecosystems should continue to prosper independently of a macroecological, predominately terrestrial perspective.

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