Biogeography

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Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species (biology) spatially (geography) and temporally (history). Biogeography aims to reveal where organisms live, at what abundance, and why (or why not) they are found in a geographical area.

Contents

Introduction

The patterns of species distribution across geographical areas 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, habitat; and river capture; in combination with the geographic constraints of landmass areas and isolation; and the available ecosystem energy supplies.

Over periods of ecological changes, biogeography includes the study of plant and animal species in: their past and/or present living refugium habitat; their interim living sites; and/or their survival locales. [1] As writer David Quammen put it, "...biogeography does more than ask Which species? and Where. It also asks Why? and, what is sometimes more crucial, Why not?."[2]

Modern biogeography often employs the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), to understand the factors affecting organism distribution, and to predict future trends in organism distribution.[3] Often mathematical models and GIS are employed to solve ecological problems that have a spatial aspect to them.[4]

History

The scientific theory of biogeography grows out of the work of Hewett Cottrell Watson (1804–1881), Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) 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[5] the field of biogeography was seen as a primarily historical one and as such the field was seen as a purely descriptive one.

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