Integrating ecological feedbacks across scales and levels  of organization

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Benoît Pichon , Sonia Kefi, Nicolas Loeuille, Ismaël Lajaaiti, Isabelle Gounand


In ecosystems, species interact in various ways with other species, and with their local environment. In addition, ecosystems are coupled in space by diverse types of flows. From these links connecting different ecological entities can emerge circular pathways of indirect effects: feedback loops. This contributes to creating a nested set of ecological feedbacks operating at different organizational levels as well as spatial and temporal scales in ecological systems: organisms modifying and being affected by their local abiotic environment, demographic and behavioral feedbacks within populations and communities, and spatial feedbacks occurring at the landscape scale. Here, we review how ecological feedbacks vary in space and time, and discuss the emergent properties they generate such as species coexistence or the spatial heterogeneity and stability of ecological systems. With the aim of identifying similarities across scales, we identify the abiotic and biotic modulators that can change the sign and strength of feedback loops and show that these feedbacks can interact in space or time. Our review shows that despite acting at different scales and emerging from different processes, feedbacks generate similar macroscopic properties of ecological systems across levels of organization. Ultimately, our contribution emphasizes the need to integrate such feedbacks to improve our understanding of their joint effects on the dynamics, patterns, and stability of ecological systems.



Life Sciences


niche construction, feedback loops, Ecosystem functioning, Stability, temporal and spatial scales, level of organization, species coexistence, ecosystem patterns, self-organization, emergent properties


Published: 2023-10-19 14:06

Last Updated: 2024-01-10 00:47

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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