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Trends Ecol Evol. 2017 Nov;32(11):835-844. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2017.08.011. Epub 2017 Sep 14.

Process, Mechanism, and Modeling in Macroecology.

Author information

1
Marine Biology and Aquaculture, College of Science & Engineering, and ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia. Electronic address: sean.connolly@jcu.edu.au.
2
Center for Macroecology, Evolution, and Climate, National Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark; Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK.
3
Center for Macroecology, Evolution, and Climate, National Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark; Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA; University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, Boulder, CO, USA.
4
Center for Macroecology, Evolution, and Climate, National Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark; Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Ascot SL5 7PY, UK.

Abstract

Macroecology has traditionally relied on descriptive characterization of large-scale ecological patterns to offer narrative explanations for the origin and maintenance of those patterns. Only recently have macroecologists begun to employ models termed 'process-based' and 'mechanistic', in contrast to other areas of ecology, where such models have a longer history. Here, we define and differentiate between process-based and mechanistic features of models, and we identify and discuss important advantages of working with models possessing such features. We describe some of the risks associated with process-based and mechanistic model-centered research programs, and we propose ways to mitigate these risks. Giving process-based and mechanistic models a more central role in research programs can reinvigorate macroecology by strengthening the link between theory and data.

KEYWORDS:

biogeography; macroecology; mechanistic models; model-based ecology; process-based models; virtual worlds

PMID:
28919203
DOI:
10.1016/j.tree.2017.08.011
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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