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Frontiers of Biogeography

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The interface between Macroecology and Conservation: existing links and untapped opportunities


Human activities are altering the structure of ecosystems, compromising the benefits they provide to nature and people. Effective conservation actions and management under ongoing global change rely on a better understanding of socio-ecological patterns and processes across broad spatiotemporal scales. Both macroecology and conservation science contribute to this improved understanding and, while they have different scopes, these disciplines have become increasingly interconnected over time. Here we describe examples of how macroecology has contributed to conservation science, and how conservation science can motivate further macroecological developments and applications. We identify challenges and untapped potential to further strengthen the links between these two disciplines. Major macroecological contributions include developing ecological theory, providing methodologies useful for biodiversity assessments and projections, making data more accessible and addressing knowledge gaps. These contributions have played a major role in the development of conservation science, and have supported outreach to policy makers, media, and the public. Nonetheless, a pure macroecological lens is limited to inform conservation decisions, particularly in local contexts, which frequently leads to the misuse of macroecological analyses for conservation applications, misunderstandings of research outputs, and skepticism among conservation practitioners and scientists. We propose possible solutions to overcome these challenges and strengthen links between macroecology and conservation science, including a stronger focus on ecological mechanisms and predictive approaches, and the creation of hybrid journals and meetings. Finally, we suggest new avenues for macroecological research that would further benefit conservation science.

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