OOS 23-10
Emerging comparative approaches for understanding the ecosystem impacts of global change: Challenges and future directions

Wednesday, August 13, 2014: 11:10 AM
304/305, Sacramento Convention Center
Melinda D. Smith, Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO

The scale at which global changes are occurring demands research that moves beyond studies focused on individual sites to that which is more comparative in nature. Comparative (e.g., multi-site, networked) approaches are particularly important for understanding how and why ecosystems may differ in their sensitivity to global changes, such as land use change, climate change and eutrophication. Such understanding is critical for predicting how ecosystems may change in the future with increasing human pressures and forecast climate changes.


While comparative approaches are not new to ecology, these types of approaches are becoming more common. Now, with multiple recent calls for the application of comparative experimental approaches to understand ecosystem sensitivity to global changes, there is a pressing need to establish consistent approaches to comparative research.  Further, comparative approaches are inherently more complex than individual site-based research, and thus there is need for guidelines to overcome this complexity, such as how to make experiments more comparable, identifying those aspects of design that limit comparability, and other logistical considerations (e.g., data sharing and intellectual property). An overview of the current challenges and future directions of comparative research is provided, with focus on specific examples of newly emerging comparative approaches.