Spatial extrapolation: The science of predicting ecological patterns and processes

James R. Miller, Monica G. Turner, Erica A.H. Smithwick, C. Lisa Dent, Emily H. Stanley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Ecologists are often asked to contribute to solutions for broadscale problems. The extent of most ecological research is relatively limited, however, necessitating extrapolation to broader scales or to new locations. Spatial extrapolation in ecology tends to follow a general framework in which (a) the objectives are defined and a conceptual model is derived; (b) a statistical or simulation model is developed to generate predictions, possibly entailing scaling functions when extrapolating to broad scales; and (c) the results are evaluated against new data. In this article, we examine the application of this framework in a variety of contexts, using examples from the scientific literature. We conclude by discussing the challenges, limitations, and future prospects for extrapolation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)310-320
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Evaluation
  • Extrapolation
  • Modeling
  • Prediction
  • Scale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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