Macroecology deals with ecological patterns (e.g., species-area relationships – the increase of species richness with increasing area; 1-6; Fig SAR), and the underlying processes at large spatial scales. Although temporal changes in macrecological patterns, such as species geographic range and abundance distributions, have been apparent for more than a century and have frequently been quantified (e.g., 7-12), these changes remain largely unexplained phenomena of natural history, with an astonishing lack of consensus about the human role in these changes. Recent work has focused primarily on ecological explanations for these phenomena (e.g., 13,14, for review see 15). Although such analyses have provided important insights into the relationships between diversity, environmental variables and human activities, they reveal little about human impact on the evolutionary dynamics of ecosystems. The reason is that recent studies only compare sites along environmental gradients, and different sites may be driven by various forces caused by historical events (16). In conclusion, one of the reasons for the lack of consensus has been the absence of data and methods that can uncover the long-term dimension of human impact on the environment. More data and new methods, however, have become available during the last few years. As demonstrated by our unpublished analyses, these data shows changes that corresponds with for example the introduction of agriculture and migration periods. Unfortunatelly, we cannot analyse the consequences of the previous history without detailed archeological data for each focal site. These data can, however, be gathered from literature, regional databases, and museums.
Currently, various macroecological tools that can uncover changes in the forces that govern ecosystem dynamics have been developed (e.g., 17-28,5,6). These tools implicitly assume that the changes in the processes that govern the ecosystem dynamics are mirrored by changes in macroecological patterns. Therefore, the observable changes in macroecological patterns can reveal changes in the underlying processes.
The newest tools for macroecological analyses are designed to extract macroecological patterns from data from small plots, which is often the format of Palaeoecological and Archaeological data. Unfortunatelly not all the tools are available in the form of programme packages so far. As our team is capable of producing its own progamme packages, the intended project is the logical step forward.
For more information or opportunity to collaborate, please, contact sizling[at]cts.cuni.cz.
Species-Area Relationship (SAR) is one of the most important patterns studied by macroecologists. It links the area of a piece of landscape (or an island), and number of species that have their home in the piece of landscape (or the island). Standardly all SAR slows its increase as the area increases, showing an upper limit. This makes the rough pattern of SAR general. The rate of the increase is, however, taxon and biome specific, which makes the pattern unique in details.
The fig (adopted from 4) shows observed SARs within the Czech Republic and Central Europe (squares) and their 95% variations (full and dashed lines) as computed using bird atlas data. Diamonds show the predictions made by the finite area models (4). Macroecologists do both, computing patterns from rough data, and predicting the patterns from first principles and/or assumed underlying mechanisms.
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