Tuesday, August 4, 2009: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
Blrm B, Albuquerque Convention Center
William R. Burnside
James H. Brown
William R. Burnside
Many important ecological phenomena, such as patterns of distribution, abundance, and diversity, emerge only at the spatial scale of continents or the temporal scale of decades or longer. This symposium focuses on the interactions between humans and their environment across diverse spatial and temporal scales, an approach we call human macroecology. These interactions often involve the acquisition, transformation, and allocation of resources to individuals and the resulting affects on resource distributions and ecosystem services. Through a series of talks that build on one another, the symposium will highlight the structure and ecological implications of this essentially metabolic function of human societies. Until recently, much of human ecology was left to social scientists, but recent work highlights the importance of a rigorous, theoretically-based perspective centered in the environmental sciences but drawing from a range of disciplines. Our goals are: (1) to define human macroecology through a progression of compelling examples that build on one another; (2) to bring together and synthesize empirical findings from diverse disciplines; and (3) to show how this work bridges history disciplinary divides to offer new perspectives on human-environment interactions, including sustainability science. Each talk meets a specific objective, together building a compelling vision of the cross-scale ecology of humanity and a powerful framework for interpreting and extending that research. Burger will discuss how a focus on environmental energy linked pioneering work in human macroecology, which focused on foraging patterns and range sizes in relation to ecological variables, such as primary productivity. By acquiring, transforming, and allocating resources to group members and through their nested, self-similar structure, human societies have metabolic properties (Hamilton). The resulting pressure has consistent effects on natural resource distributions (Stiner, Jennings), effects that feed back to affect access to nature’s services (Jennings, Daily) and ecosystem processes at multiple scales (Grimm). To accommodate increasingly concentrated human populations and supply them with resources, urban infrastructure and distribution networks scale in characteristic ways (Moses). Quantifying a range of urban scaling relations suggests a theory of urban growth and resource use, with key implications for sustainable development (Bettencourt). Over time, the collapse, endurance, and evolution of human societies is an intimate function of our social solutions to common ecological constraints (Tainter). Understanding macroscopic patterns of human ecology is paramount to achieving a sustainable future (Brown).
ESA Human Ecology Section, ESA Theoretical Ecology Section, AAAS Southwestern and Rocky Mountain Division