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Keywords:

  • Scale;
  • scaling;
  • spatial pattern;
  • multifractals;
  • species distribution

Abstract

Fractals have found widespread application in a range of scientific fields, including ecology. This rapid growth has produced substantial new insights, but has also spawned confusion and a host of methodological problems. In this paper, we review the value of fractal methods, in particular for applications to spatial ecology, and outline potential pitfalls. Methods for measuring fractals in nature and generating fractal patterns for use in modelling are surveyed. We stress the limitations and the strengths of fractal models. Strictly speaking, no ecological pattern can be truly fractal, but fractal methods may nonetheless provide the most efficient tool available for describing and predicting ecological patterns at multiple scales.