Biogeography is the study of the distribution of biodiversity over space and time. It aims to reveal where organisms live, at what abundance. [Martiny JBH et al [ Microbial biogeography: putting microorganisms on the map] "Nature: FEBRUARY 2006 | VOLUME 4"]

The patterns of species distribution at this level can usually be explained through a combination of historical factors such as speciation, extinction, continental drift, glaciation (and associated variations in sea level, river routes, and so on), and river capture, in combination with the area and isolation of landmasses (geographic constraints) and available energy supplies.


The scientific theory of biogeography grows out of the work of Alfred Russel Wallace and other early evolutionary scientists. Wallace studied the distribution of flora and fauna in the Malay Archipelago in the 19th century. With the exception of Wallace and a few others, prior to the publication of "The Theory of Island Biogeography" by Robert MacArthur and E.O. Wilson in 1967 [This work expanded their 1963 paper on the same topic.] the field of biogeography was seen as a primarily historical one and as such the field was seen as a purely descriptive one.

MacArthur and Wilson changed this perception, and showed that the species richness of an area could be predicted in terms of such factors as habitat area, immigration rate and extinction rate. This gave rise to an interest in island biogeography. The application of island biogeography theory to habitat fragments spurred the development of the fields of conservation biology and landscape ecology. [This applies to British and American academics; landscape ecology has a distinct genesis among European academics.]

Classic biogeography has been expanded by the development of molecular systematics, creating a new discipline known as phylogeography. This development allowed scientists to test theories about the origin and dispersal of populations, such as island endemics. For example, while classic biogeographers were able to speculate about the origins of species in the Hawaiian Islands, phylogeography allows them to test theories of relatedness between these populations and putative source populations in Asia and North America.


Paleobiogeography goes one step further to include paleogeographic data and considerations of plate tectonics. Using molecular analyses and corroborated by fossils, it has been possible to demonstrate that perching birds evolved first in the region of Australia or the adjacent Antarctic (which at that time lay somewhat further north and had a temperate climate). From there, they spread to the other Gondwanan continents and Southeast Asia - the part of Laurasia then closest to their origin of dispersal - in the late Paleogene, before achieving a global distribution in the early Neogene (Jønsson & Fjeldså 2006). Not knowing the fact that at the time of dispersal, the Indian Ocean was much narrower than it is today, and that South America was closer to the Antarctic, one would be hard pressed to explain the presence of many "ancient" lineages of perching birds in Africa, as well as the mainly South American distribution of the suboscines.


Biogeography is a synthetic science, related to geography, biology, soil science, geology, climatology, ecology and evolution.

Some fundamentals in biogeography are
* evolution (change in genetic composition of a population)
* extinction (disappearance of a species)
* dispersal (movement of populations away from their point of origin, related to migration)
* range and distribution
* endemic areas
* vicariance

See also

* Ecozone (biogeographic region or biogeographical realm)
* Ecological land classification
* Ecoregion
* Macroecology
* Phylogeography
* Zoogeography
**Zoogeographic province
* Phytogeography
** Floristic province
* Continental drift
* Tectonic plates
* Alfred Russel Wallace
* Charles Darwin
* Miklos Udvardy
* Important publications in biogeography

Notes and References

Further reading

* Jønsson, Knud A. & Fjeldså, Jon (2006). Determining biogeographical patterns of dispersal and diversification in oscine passerine birds in Australia, Southeast Asia and Africa. "Journal of Biogeography" 33(7): 1155–1165. DOI|10.1111/j.1365-2699.2006.01507.x (HTML abstract)

External links

* [ International Biogeogaphy Society]
* [ Early Classics in Biogeography, Distribution, and Diversity Studies: To 1950]
* [ Early Classics in Biogeography, Distribution, and Diversity Studies: 1951-1975]
* [ Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists: Chrono-Biographical Sketches]

Major journals

* [ "Journal of Biogeography" homepage] .
* [ "Global Ecology and Biogeography" homepage] .
* [ "Ecography" homepage] .

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  • Biogeography — Bi o*ge*og ra*phy, n. [Gr. bi os life + E. geography.] The branch of biology which deals with the geographical distribution of animals and plants. It includes both zo[ o]geography and phytogeography. {Bi o*ge o*graph ic}, a. {Bi o*ge o*graph… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • biogeography — also bio geography, 1892, from BIO (Cf. bio ) + GEOGRAPHY (Cf. geography). Related: Biogeographical …   Etymology dictionary

  • biogeography — [bī΄ō jē ä′grə fē] n. the branch of biology that deals with the geographical distribution of plants and animals biogeographic [bī΄ō jē΄ə graf′ik] adj …   English World dictionary

  • biogeography — biogeographer, n. biogeographic /buy oh jee euh graf ik/, biogeographical, adj. biogeographically, adv. /buy oh jee og reuh fee/, n. Ecol. the study of the geographical distribution of living things. [1890 95; BIO + GEOGRAPHY] * * *       study… …   Universalium

  • biogeography — biogeografija statusas T sritis ekologija ir aplinkotyra apibrėžtis Mokslas, tiriantis įvairių sistematinių grupių organizmų (ir biocenozių) paplitimą ir pasiskirstymą Žemėje. atitikmenys: angl. biogeography vok. Biogeographie, f rus.… …   Ekologijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

  • biogeography — noun Etymology: International Scientific Vocabulary Date: 1894 a science that deals with the geographical distribution of animals and plants • biogeographer noun • biogeographic or biogeographical adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • biogeography — 1) the distribution of species defined by abiotic factors such as salinity, temperature, currents, etc 2) the distribution of organisms defined by historical events such as migration, extinction, speciation, etc …   Dictionary of ichthyology

  • biogeography — n. [Gr. bios, life; ge, earth; graphein, to write] That biological science dealing with the geographical distribution of plants and animals; see zoogeography …   Dictionary of invertebrate zoology

  • biogeography — noun a) The study of the geographical distribution of living things b) The geographical distribution of a particular living thing …   Wiktionary

  • biogeography — bio·ge·og·ra·phy jē äg rə fē n, pl phies a branch of biology that deals with the geographical distribution of animals and plants bio·geo·graph·ic .jē ə graf ik or bio·geo·graph·i·cal i kəl adj * * * bio·ge·og·ra·phy (bi″o je ogґrə fe)… …   Medical dictionary

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