Perspectives on global change theory

TitlePerspectives on global change theory
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsPeters DC, Bestelmeyer BT, Knapp A.K.
Conference NameEcological Society of America Abstracts
Date PublishedAugust 3, 2008
ARIS Log Number227870
Keywordsabstract, abstracts, climate, ecological, global, nitrogen
AbstractGlobal changes in ecological drivers, such as CO2 concentrations, climate, and nitrogen deposition, are increasingly recognized as key to understanding contemporary ecosystem dynamics, but a coherent theory of global change has not yet been developed. We outline the characteristics of a theory of global change that draws upon other theories from a range of sub-disciplines, including population biology, landscape ecology, and Earth system sciences. The theory is based on the following propositions: (1) global scale patterns can be understood via the hierarchy of interacting processes at finer scales, from plants to landscapes and regions, and fine-scale patterns often cannot be understood without knowledge of global processes; (2) dynamics at any location on the globe are affected to varying degrees by transfer processes that connect adjacent as well as distant locations, (3) transfer processes (wind, water, animals, humans) connect locations via the movement of organisms, materials, disturbance, and information, (4) spatial heterogeneity (i.e., pattern) determines how drivers and transfer processes interact across scales, and (5) the relative importance of fine- or broad-scale pattern-process relationships can vary through time, and alternate as the dominant factors controlling system dynamics. We develop the basis for this theory and provide supporting evidence for it. This multiple, interacting scale theory has the potential to integrate much of our information about global change drivers and responses.