TitleHistorical foundations and future directions in macrosystems ecology
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsRose, KC, Graves, RA, Hansen, WD, Harvey, BJ, Qiu, J, Wood, SA, Ziter, C, Turner, MG
JournalEcology Letters
Date Published2016
ISBN Number1461-0248
KeywordsHierarchy theory, landscape ecology, macrosystems ecology, space–time, spatio-temporal

Macrosystems ecology is an effort to understand ecological processes and interactions at the broadest spatial scales and has potential to help solve globally important social and ecological challenges. It is important to understand the intellectual legacies underpinning macrosystems ecology: How the subdiscipline fits within, builds upon, differs from and extends previous theories. We trace the rise of macrosystems ecology with respect to preceding theories and present a new hypothesis that integrates the multiple components of macrosystems theory. The spatio-temporal anthropogenic rescaling (STAR) hypothesis suggests that human activities are altering the scales of ecological processes, resulting in interactions at novel space–time scale combinations that are diverse and predictable. We articulate four predictions about how human actions are “expanding”, “shrinking”, “speeding up” and “slowing down” ecological processes and interactions, and thereby generating new scaling relationships for ecological patterns and processes. We provide examples of these rescaling processes and describe ecological consequences across terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. Rescaling depends in part on characteristics including connectivity, stability and heterogeneity. Our STAR hypothesis challenges traditional assumptions about how the spatial and temporal scales of processes and interactions operate in different types of ecosystems and provides a lens through which to understand macrosystem-scale environmental change.