Date of this Version
Ecology Letters (2014) 17: 1365–1379
Two fundamental axes – space and time – shape ecological systems. Over the last 30 years spatial ecology has developed as an integrative, multidisciplinary science that has improved our understanding of the ecological consequences of habitat fragmentation and loss. We argue that accelerating climate change – the effective manipulation of time by humans – has generated a current need to build an equivalent framework for temporal ecology. Climate change has at once pressed ecologists to understand and predict ecological dynamics in non-stationary environments, while also challenged fundamental assumptions of many concepts, models and approaches. However, similarities between space and time, especially related issues of scaling, provide an outline for improving ecological models and forecasting of temporal dynamics, while the unique attributes of time, particularly its emphasis on events and its singular direction, highlight where new approaches are needed. We emphasise how a renewed, interdisciplinary focus on time would coalesce related concepts, help develop new theories and methods and guide further data collection. The next challenge will be to unite predictive frameworks from spatial and temporal ecology to build robust forecasts of when and where environmental change will pose the largest threats to species and ecosystems, as well as identifying the best opportunities for conservation.