Scale

Scale is an ever-present issue in many disciplines of science. Scale is so important that, in many ways, it determines the kinds of questions that may be asked about the operation of the ecosystem, and it often determines the answers to the questions as well. A specific recurrent issue is how to relate the scales at which climate systems operate to those scales at which the biotic parts of the ecosystems operate. The 30-year period over which "climatic normals" are taken is an artificial human construct and may have little bearing on ecosystem realities. Decadal averages of climate data might be more meaningful. At the very least, we should recognize that the averaging period will have a very large role in what we consider to be an "episode." The definition of climate as perceived by the individual component of the ecosystem is directly related to scale. A soil microorganism might regard an individual rainstorm as a significant climatic event, whereas a tree at the Andrews LTER site in Oregon would be acclimated to a "climate" far exceeding any 30-year climatic period. The ecosystem responder defines its own climatic scale.

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