Multiple Scale Analysis

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The concept of multiple scale analysis is perhaps an emerging trend in ecosystem assessment and stewardship. The consideration of ecosystems at multiple scales may have originated in early authors like Feibleman 1954, who was cited by John Tillman Lyle in his seminal Design for Human Ecosystems (Lyle 1994). Lyle suggested that larger scales of organization define the inherited purpose of smaller scales, while our actual mechanisms for acting in systems are only available at smaller scales. The concept can be found in Shoreline Management Act planning efforts described in Diefenderfer et al 2007 where shoreline condition and attributes are considered both as local units, but also as a larger scale drift cell. The Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project developed extensive spatial data which allow nested scales of analysis. Continued work on this theme can be seen in Cereghino 2014 which explores developing multi-scale units for managing estuary functions in the nearshore. In addition the Puget Sound Characterization Project has struggled with how to interpret the condition of sub-units within watersheds, while also considering whole watershed context.

The following considerations come into play when attempting to integrate multiple scales in to an assessment, design, or management process:

  • What is the best scale to describe a particular phenomena?
  • How do we organize complex systems into a legible framework that describe complex phenomena at multiple scales?
  • What are strategies for helping participants think well at multiple scales?
  • How do observations at different scales ultimately inform decisions and result in an improvement in outcome?