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Linking the concept of scale to studies of biological diversity: evolving approaches and tools.

January 6, 2016

Although the concepts of scale and biological diversity independently have received rapidly increasing attention in the scientific literature since the 1980s, the rate at which the two concepts have been investigated jointly has grown much more slowly. We find that scale considerations have been incorporated explicitly into six broad areas of investigation related to biological diversity: (1) heterogeneity within and among ecosystems, (2) disturbance ecology, (3) conservation and restoration, (4) invasion biology, (5) importance of temporal scale for understanding processes, and (6) species responses to environmental heterogeneity. In addition to placing the papers of this Special Feature within the context of brief summaries of the expanding literature on these six topics, we provide an overview of tools useful for integrating scale considerations into studies of biological diversity. Such tools include hierarchical and structural-equation modelling, kriging, variable-width buffers, k-fold cross-validation, and cascading graph diagrams, among others. Finally, we address some of the major challenges and research frontiers that remain, and conclude with a look to the future.