Changing the way we think about global change research: scaling up in experimental ecosystem science

Authors

  • Barry Osmond,

    1. Biosphere 2 Center, Columbia University, PO Box 896, Oracle, AZ 85623, USA
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  • Gennady Ananyev,

    1. Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Program, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences and Department of Geological Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8521, USA
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    • 1Present address: 21 Hoyt Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.

  • Joseph Berry,

    1. Biosphere 2 Center, Columbia University, PO Box 896, Oracle, AZ 85623, USA
    2. Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 260 Panama Street, Palo Alto, CA 94305-1297, USA
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  • Chris Langdon,

    1. Biosphere 2 Center, Columbia University, PO Box 896, Oracle, AZ 85623, USA
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  • Zbigniew Kolber,

    1. Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Program, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences and Department of Geological Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8521, USA
    2. Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, 7700 Sandholdt Road, Moss Landing, CA 95039-9644, USA
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  • Gunghui Lin,

    1. Biosphere 2 Center, Columbia University, PO Box 896, Oracle, AZ 85623, USA
    2. Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 260 Panama Street, Palo Alto, CA 94305-1297, USA
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  • Russell Monson,

    1. Biosphere 2 Center, Columbia University, PO Box 896, Oracle, AZ 85623, USA
    2. Department of Environmental, Population and Organismic Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0334, USA
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  • Caroline Nichol,

    1. Biosphere 2 Center, Columbia University, PO Box 896, Oracle, AZ 85623, USA
    2. School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Darwin Building, Mayfield Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JU, Scotland, UK
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  • Uwe Rascher,

    1. Biosphere 2 Center, Columbia University, PO Box 896, Oracle, AZ 85623, USA
    2. Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 260 Panama Street, Palo Alto, CA 94305-1297, USA
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  • Uli Schurr,

    1. Institute for Phytosphere Research, Jülich Research Center, 52425 Jülich, Germany
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  • Stan Smith,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV 89154-4004, USA
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  • Dan Yakir

    1. Biosphere 2 Center, Columbia University, PO Box 896, Oracle, AZ 85623, USA
    2. Environmental Sciences and Energy Research, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel
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Barry Osmond, School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia, e-mail: barry.osmond@anu.edu.au

Abstract

Scaling is a naturally iterative and bi-directional component of problem solving in ecology and in climate science. Ecosystems and climate systems are unquestionably the sum of all their parts, to the smallest imaginable scale, in genomic processes or in the laws of fluid dynamics. However, in the process of scaling-up, for practical purposes thewhole usually has to be construed as a good deal less than this. This essay demonstrates how controlled large-scale experiments can be used to deduce key mechanisms and thereby reduce much of the detail needed for the process of scaling-up. Collection of the relevant experimental evidence depends on controlling the environment and complexity of experiments, and on applications of technologies that report on, and integrate, small-scale processes. As the role of biological feedbacks in the behavior of climate systems is better appreciated, so the need grows for experimentally based understanding of ecosystem processes.

We argue that we cannot continue as we are doing, simply observing the progress of the greenhouse gas-driven experiment in global change, and modeling its future outcomes. We have to change the way we think about climate system and ecosystem science, and in the process move to experimental modes at larger scales than previously thought achievable.

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