1. Population ecology, the discipline that studies the dynamics of species’ populations and how they interact with the environment, has been one of the most prolific fields of ecology and evolution. Demographic research is central to quantifying population-level processes and their underlying mechanisms and has provided critical contributions to a diversity of research fields. Examples include the spread of infectious diseases, eco-evolutionary dynamics and rapid evolution, mechanisms underlying invasions and extinctions, and forest productivity. As the fates of individual organisms are influenced by, and subsequently underlie, many other patterns and processes, we suggest that connecting demography beyond the population level offers promising avenues of innovation in ecology and evolution.
2. Under the premise that population-level processes are an ideal common currency within ecology and evolution, we organized the British Ecological Society Symposium, Demography Beyond the Population. This event attracted international researchers who are applying demographic theory and approaches to a broad range of questions. This special feature builds off of the symposium and illustrates the ability of demography to connect across diverse research areas in ecology and evolution, including functional traits, transient dynamics, quantitative genetics, environmental drivers and feedbacks, land management and other topics. In addition to highlighting the contributed manuscripts, this editorial provides a brief background on the development of the discipline and suggests how demographic tools may be used in novel ways to study more than just populations.
3. Synthesis. This special feature integrates novel lines of research in the vast field of demography that directly interact with other ecological and evolutionary disciplines. The cross-disciplinary potential of demography is further emphasized by the fact that its 20 manuscripts are spread across all six journals of the British Ecological Society. Together, these articles highlight that there is much to be gained by linking demography to other disciplines and scales in ecology and evolution.