Macroecology in deep-time

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Macroecology is a big-picture approach that explores relationships between environment and organisms. It seeks explanations for statistically relevant patterns on large spatial and temporal scales (Brown 1995; Smith et al. 2008). The macroecological agenda is centred on elucidating patterns and processes behind gradients in organismal diversity, distribution, abundance and body size dynamics. Despite early work that embedded the importance of palaeontology in the macroecological approach (Brown 1995), ecologists mainly have focused their investigations on spatial scales only. The results are static snapshots of distribution and abundance in time (Jablonski et al. 2003). Hence, fundamental information derived from palaeobiology is often ignored or sometimes perceived as irrelevant. This viewpoint is changing fast (Ricklefs 2006), and some of the recent paradigms in ecology embrace fully the rich resources of the fossil record (Hubbell 2001). The purpose of the symposium ‘Macroecology in Deep-Time’ held at The University of Birmingham on 13 December 2009 was to demonstrate the role of palaeontology in debates on organismal distribution, diversity and body size. Nearly all these contributions were facilitated by the construction of databased records. Such records will facilitate increasingly greater insights into dynamic macroecological patterns on both spatial and temporal scales. They will also bridge more fully between macroecology and macroevolution. The Palaeontological Association is thanked for financing the symposium held at their 53rd Annual Meeting at The University of Birmingham. I wish to thank all contributors to this symposium.

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