SYMP 21-2
Temporal scaling of biodiversity: A missing component of building a predictive ecology

Thursday, August 13, 2015: 2:00 PM
309, Baltimore Convention Center
S.K. Morgan Ernest, Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida
Erica Christensen, Biology Department, Utah State University, Logan, UT

Since Simon Levin's call to arms for ecologists to pay more attention to scale, ecology has embraced the importance of spatial scale, scales of organismal size, and interactions across the scales of biological hierarchy. However, temporal scales of ecological processes and patterns have received less attention. Ecological processes operate at a variety of temporal scales – from the scales ecologists typically think about (day, season, year) to geologic time scales – yet we have no understanding of how these processes interact or whether processes at certain time-scales drive ecological patterns at other scales. If we wish to predict the future of ecological systems, we need to understand how processes at these different timescales interact to drive ecological dynamics.


We will use a long-term study of desert rodents as an example of the different temporal scales of community change that can occur. At this site, compositional reorganization occurs at two time-scales: decadal and seasonal. What is driving the changes at these time-scales is currently unclear but appears to be a variety of abiotic and biotic processes occurring at different time-scales. While the time-scales of strictly abiotic processes (e.g., climate) have been studied in a variety of fields, processes driven by biological organisms will be sensitive to the time-scale of the organism. Small organisms and large organisms differ in their rates of a variety of functions: processing and storage of resources, generation times, longevity, etc. We will review allometries in the rates of organism functions that could alter the time-scale of biotic processes. Could changes in the size-structure of an ecosystem impact the time-scales those communities are most sensitive to? Ecology needs a framework that allows us to predict and understand these different scales of temporal processes that integrates both the time-scales of the environment and the organism. Developing temporally explicit theoretical approaches and integrating them with allometric relationships could be an important first step in addressing this challenge.