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The ecological forecast horizon, and examples of its uses and determinants


Abstract

Forecasts of ecological dynamics in changing environments are increasingly important, and are available for a plethora of variables, such as species abundance and distribution, community structure and ecosystem processes. There is, however, a general absence of knowledge about how far into the future, or other dimensions (space, temperature, phylogenetic distance), useful ecological forecasts can be made, and about how features of ecological systems relate to these distances. The ecological forecast horizon is the dimensional distance for which useful forecasts can be made. Five case studies illustrate the influence of various sources of uncertainty (e.g. parameter uncertainty, environmental variation, demographic stochasticity and evolution), level of ecological organisation (e.g. population or community), and organismal properties (e.g. body size or number of trophic links) on temporal, spatial and phylogenetic forecast horizons. Insights from these case studies demonstrate that the ecological forecast horizon is a flexible and powerful tool for researching and communicating ecological predictability. It also has potential for motivating and guiding agenda setting for ecological forecasting research and development.

Abstract

Forecasts of ecological dynamics in changing environments are increasingly important, and are available for a plethora of variables, such as species abundance and distribution, community structure and ecosystem processes. There is, however, a general absence of knowledge about how far into the future, or other dimensions (space, temperature, phylogenetic distance), useful ecological forecasts can be made, and about how features of ecological systems relate to these distances. The ecological forecast horizon is the dimensional distance for which useful forecasts can be made. Five case studies illustrate the influence of various sources of uncertainty (e.g. parameter uncertainty, environmental variation, demographic stochasticity and evolution), level of ecological organisation (e.g. population or community), and organismal properties (e.g. body size or number of trophic links) on temporal, spatial and phylogenetic forecast horizons. Insights from these case studies demonstrate that the ecological forecast horizon is a flexible and powerful tool for researching and communicating ecological predictability. It also has potential for motivating and guiding agenda setting for ecological forecasting research and development.

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33 citations in Scopus®
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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:05 Jun 2015 09:07
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 13:11
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:1461-023X
Additional Information:This is the accepted version of the following article: Petchey, O. L., Pontarp, M., Massie, T. M., Kéfi, S., Ozgul, A., Weilenmann, M., Palamara, G. M., Altermatt, F., Matthews, B., Levine, J. M., Childs, D. Z., McGill, B. J., Schaepman, M. E., Schmid, B., Spaak, P., Beckerman, A. P., Pennekamp, F., Pearse, I. S. (2015), The ecological forecast horizon, and examples of its uses and determinants. Ecology Letters. doi: 10.1111/ele.12443, which has been published in final form at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ele.12443/epdf.
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.12443
PubMed ID:25960188

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