Scaling Issues

Scale is an important issue in regards to most academic investigations, particularly within the framework of the investigation of natural phenomena. The biggest problem when dealing with these phenomena, especially environmental problems, is that these occurrences happen at various levels of scale. In addition, a single phenomena might have a particular effect on a local scale, but a completely different effect on a regional or global scale. As a result, issues arise as to best way to conduct an investigation: What scale should I use? Is the phenomena I am studying multi-scalar? How do I aggregate my results?

Marceau does a great job of identifying some of the key concepts behind scale, as well as the issues that have arisen since its evolution; most specifically within the natural and social sciences. One of the most interesting concepts identified throughout the paper was the modifiable are unit problem (MAUP) , which encompasses both the scale problem and the aggregation problem. Marceau concludes that the effects of MAUP are starting to become better understood; and this process in turn is contributing to the emergence of “scale as a science”.

The issues of MAUP bring to mind a case study I recently reviewed. This study encompassed an investigation of the effects of climate change on the Scandinavian country of Norway. An analysis of various effects such as economy, biodiversity, health etc. was performed at a multi-scalar level (national, regional, local). In their conclusion, the authors noted that at a national scale, the country was well off towards adapting to climate change. However, they noted that as scale was decreased to the regional and local scales, localized threats were discovered. This investigation serves to highlight the problem of main issues of MAUP, and how further development is needed within the “science of scale” in order to more effectively manage data at multi-scalar levels.

-Victor Manuel


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