Royal Society Publishing

Coherence and discontinuity in the scaling of specie's distribution patterns

Stephen Hartley, William E. Kunin, Jack J. Lennon, Michael J. O. Pocock

Abstract

The spatial distribution of a species can be characterized at many different spatial scales, from fine‐scale measures of local population density to coarse‐scale geographical‐range structure. Previous studies have shown a degree of correlation in species' distribution patterns across narrow ranges of scales, making it possible to predict fine‐scale properties from coarser‐scale distributions. To test the limits of such extrapolation, we have compiled distributional information on 16 species of British plants, at scales ranging across six orders of magnitude in linear resolution (1 m to 100 km). As expected, the correlation between patterns at different spatial scales tends to degrade as the scales become more widely separated. There is, however, an abrupt breakdown in cross‐scale correlations across intermediate (ca. 0.5 km) scales, suggesting that local and regional patterns are influenced by essentially non‐overlapping sets of processes. The scaling discontinuity may also reflect characteristic scales of human land use in Britain, suggesting a novel method for analysing the ‘footprint’ of humanity on a landscape.

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