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It’s time to strengthen the macroecology–conservation practice interface (commentary)

29 / 11 / 2018, Mongabaycom News

Imagine being able to know how many individual organisms occur at any given time across areas as large as whole continents or even the entire globe. Though satellites may one day enable us to obtain this information directly, a sub-discipline of ecology — macroecology — currently represents the main tool to generate those estimates. Macroecology attempts to identify patterns that might be universal across ecosystems in order to explain and predict the abundance, distribution, and diversity of organisms at large spatial scales in the past, present, or future. For instance, macroecological models have been used to estimate that around 305,000 arthropod species inhabit Amazonia, that 5 percent of all extant mammal species remain undescribed, and that Earth is home to approximately 8.7 million eukaryotic species and as many as 1 trillion microbial species. With biodiversity under increasing pressure from human activities, macroecology can contribute greatly to the scientific evidence base for national and international decisions aimed at conserving biodiversity and ensuring a safe future for our planet. First, its large-scale “macro” focus makes macroecology the tool of choice for regional, national, or global biodiversity assessments — much like macro-economics is the tool to study the behavior of regional, national, or global economies. Second, its emphasis on generating predictions over both space and time makes macroecology an ideal tool to forecast the future of biodiversity under environmental change. Finally, its embrace of “big data” approaches to generate large-scale predictions make macroecology an ideal tool for stimulating the uptake of cutting-edge data…

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