Abstract. Some of the most important questions in biodiversity studies also remain the most controversial. Are species distributions structured by deterministic processes such as environmental filtering and species interactions, or do random processes reign supreme? Amidst a global extinction crisis, is local biodiversity also declining? How are productivity and diversity related? These and dozens of other questions have caused a considerable amount of strife in ecology over the decades. As a result, a primary goal is to find approaches, tools, data and perspectives that can synthesize these disparate views about how the world works into a broader and more cohesive, but necessarily more nuanced, perspective. In much of my research, I have used the concept of scale (mostly spatial, but also temporal, taxonomic, etcetera) as a fundamental mediator of biodiversity patterns and processes, and as such, as a way in which to synthesize seemingly disparate results.
In this talk, I will discuss two vignettes illustrating how explicit consideration of scale can contextualize and help to resolve a number of important issues in biodiversity studies. These will include: Cases where scale mediates the relative importance of our understanding of fundamental meta-community assembly processes, such as niche versus neutral theory. And cases where scale mediates how biodiversity responses to anthropogenic factors such as invasive species and land-use. I will present some of the tools and approaches that we have developed that move beyond treating scale as a mere nuisance or modifier in synthesis studies to treating it as a fundamental property of data that can help us to develop a more cohesive perspective on process and pattern in biodiversity studies. Finally, I conclude with a broader perspective on synthesis and how the lessons learned in scale-dependence in biodiversity studies can help provide context for synthesis throughout ecology.