Cross Scale Interactions and Spatial Nonlinearities: An Interdisciplinary Framework

TitleCross Scale Interactions and Spatial Nonlinearities: An Interdisciplinary Framework
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsPeters DC, Bestelmeyer BT
Conference NameEcological Society of America 90th Annual Meeting
Date PublishedAugust 7-12, 200
Conference LocationMontreal, Quebec, CANADA
ARIS Log Number185548
Keywordsecological, nonlinear, sptaial, thresholds
AbstractThresholds caused by nonlinear interactions and feedbacks across spatial scales are common features of ecological and physical systems. Spatial nonlinearities (i.e., acceleration or deceleration in the rate of change as the spatial extent expands) challenge the ability of ecologists to understand and predict system behavior at one scale based on information obtained at finer or broader scales. Thus, cross-scale interactions often result in “surprises” with severe consequences for the environment (e.g., wildfire, pest outbreaks, state changes) and human welfare (e.g., spread of infectious diseases). Alternatively, cross scale interactions may be beneficial, such as accelerated recovery of vegetation following fire. In both cases, fine scale processes propagate nonlinearly to have unexpected effects at broader spatial scales. In many cases, climate variability and its effects on ecosystems, is a mechanism for cross-scale synchronization of ecosystem pattern and process.Identification of the key processes generating the nonlinear behavior is often problematic. We present a conceptual framework for understanding and forecasting events that result from cross scale interactions. We provide support for our framework using both historical (the Dust Bowl) and current examples (wildfires, invasive species). This paper provides the introduction for a series of papers on the importance of cross scale interactions to the dynamics of a variety of ecological systems.