Macroecology is ecology at large spatial scales, focusing on identifying the ecological and evolutionary forces that influence patterns in body size, geographic range size, abundance, diversity and related macroevolutionary trends. The field has traditionally focused on across‐species comparisons, but recent work has begun to analyse macroecological patterns from a geographical perspective. This change makes the links between ecological traits and diversity patterns more explicit and provides a unified approach for understanding a range of large‐scale ecological patterns. Newly developed analytical methods also make it possible to partition geographical patterns into components comprising the species‐level adaptive responses of assemblages to environmental gradients and phylogenetic patterns arising from species turnover. Macroecology is founded on the principle that the study of geographic‐scale species assemblages can conceptually link a number of different biological disciplines.

Keywords: biogeography; biological diversity; geographical ecology; macroevolution

Figure 1.

Geographic patterns of macroecological variables for native, breeding South American birds, mapped at a spatial resolution of 756 km2. (a) The number of species, (b) geometric mean range size, (c) geometric mean body size and (d) the familial mean root distance (MRD) of all species. MRD is calculated as the number of nodes separating the family of each bird from the base of a phylogenetic tree for all birds, resolved at the family level, and is used as a general measure of the level of phylogenetic development of local bird faunas (see Hawkins et al., for more details).



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Further Reading

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Brown JH (1995) Macroecology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Brown JH (1999) Macroecology: progress and prospects. Oikos 86: 3–14.

Brown JH and Maurer BA (1989) Macroecology: the division of food and space among species on continents. Science 243: 1145–1150.

Gaston KJ and Blackburn TM (1999) A critique for macroecology. Oikos 84: 353–368.

Gaston KJ and Blackburn TM (2000) Pattern and Process in Macroecology. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific.

Maurer BA (1999) Untangling Ecological Complexity: The Macroscopic Perspective. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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How to Cite close
Hawkins, Bradford A, and Diniz‐Filho, José Alexandre Felizola(Dec 2008) Macroecology. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003273.pub2]