Multiscale Experiments in Coastal Ecology: Improving Realism and Advancing Theory

John E. Petersen*, W. Michael Kemp, Rick Bartleson, Walter R. Boynton, Chung Chi Chen, Jeffrey C. Cornwell, Robert H. Gardner, Deborah C. Hinkle, Edward D. Houde, Thomas C. Malone, William R. Mowitt, Laura Murray, Lawrence P. Sanford, J. Court Stevenson, Karen L. Sundberg, Steve E. Suttles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


The Multiscale Experimental Ecosystem Research Center has conducted a series of mesocosm experiments to quantify the effects of scale - in terms of time, depth, radius, exchange rate, and ecological complexity - on biogeochemical processes and trophic dynamics in a variety of coastal habitats. The results indicate that scale effects can be categorized as (a) fundamental effects, which are evident in both natural and experimental ecosystems, and (b) artifacts of enclosure, which are solely attributable to the artificial environment in mesocosms. We conclude that multiscale experiments increase researchers' understanding of scale in nature and improve their ability to design scale-sensitive experiments, the results of which can be systematically compared with each other and extrapolated to nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1181-1197
Number of pages17
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2003 Dec


  • Experimental design
  • Extrapolation
  • Mesocosm
  • Scale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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