Meta-ecosystems 2.0: rooting the theory into the field.

Trends in Ecology and Evolution


The meta-ecosystem framework demonstrates the significance of among-ecosystem spatial flows for ecosystem dynamics and has fostered a rich body of theory. The high level of abstraction of the models, however, impedes applications to empirical systems. We argue that further understanding of spatial dynamics in natural systems strongly depends on dense exchanges between field and theory. From empiricists, more and specific quantifications of spatial flows are needed, defined by the major categories of organismal movement (dispersal, foraging, life-cycle, and migration). In parallel, the theoretical framework must account for the distinct spatial scales at which these naturally common spatial flows occur. Integrating all levels of spatial connections among landscape elements will upgrade and unify landscape and meta-ecosystem ecology into a single framework for spatial ecology., Cross-ecosystem movements drive landscape dynamics., Among-ecosystem couplings are either dispersal- or resource-dominated., Dispersal-based couplings occur at the regional scale between similar habitat types., Resource-based couplings occur at the local scale between different habitat types.