Biogeography Study Guide

🗻 Big Picture: Biogeography is the study of the distribution of plant and animal species across latitudes and geological space.

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The Earth is far from homogenous. Regions vary in climatic conditions, landscapes, and distributions of resources. Thus, species living in different geographical locations have different traits and characteristics uniquely adapted for their environment that are essential for their survival.

Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species across latitude, longitude, elevation area, and habitat area. we study biogeography to understand the evolution of nature and the environment.



What is Biogeography?

Biogeography is defined as the study of the distribution of species across a given geographical location. However, there are several branches associated with this subject too. For example, the branch of biogeography that studies the distribution of plants is known as phytogeography, and the one that studies the distribution of animals is known as zoogeography.

The purpose of biogeography is to study the pattern of the distribution of species. Geographical histories such as continental drift, speciation, extinction, and glaciation help us to understand the species distribution in an area. Biogeography also considers certain other factors such as landmass constraints and energy resources. By the processing of data through various statistical and mathematical simulations, biogeography helps us predict the future of a species.

History of Biogeography

The study of biogeography began as early as the 18th century. However, the studies in this period were largely inspired by religious influence. Carl Linnaeus observed that the distribution of a particular species is not uniform across different landscapes. He used biblical references to explain different structures in species in different geographical locations.

For example, he related biogeographic distribution to the story of Noah's Ark. Following a flood covering the entire earth, his ark landed on Mount Ararat when the water receded, and the pairs of animals aboard were distributed across different mountain regions. Although Linnaeus's study was restricted to biblical references, it still served as a platform for future scientists.

Modern Applications of Biogeography

What started as a collection of data on species distribution has now evolved into something far more diverse. Biogeography initially relied on the disciplines of geology, botany, biological geography, zoology, and modeling, but was limited in its early stages by the technology available at the time.

Today, technology has advanced far past the capabilities it had in its infancy, and we are able to use advanced methods of complex computations to help us project a wider range future data with a higher degree of accuracy.

We have two prominent models of computations today: the Global Production Efficiency Model and the Global Information System. The data from these computations and observations from the Glo-PEM model are global, which assists in things like planning crop plantations and predicting future turns of events.

There are many other ways we use biogeography. For example, we use biogeography to map global biodiversity and promote species conservation for the purpose of slowing its decline. Other ways we use this data include the prediction and prevention the spread of infectious diseases and to study changes in climatic conditions caused by things like the greenhouse effect.

✅ Conclusion

  • Biogeography is the study of animal and plant species distribution across different latitudes, elevations, and geological times.

  • Biogeography can be broadly studied through other branches such as zoology, botany, ecology, etc.

  • The study of biogeography began as early as the 18th century and evolved majorly in the 19th and 20th centuries after the “Origin of Species” was published.

  • We use biogeography to protect habitats and minimize the impact of global climate change on important animal and plant species.


1. What are some examples of biogeography?

One prominent example of biogeography is the splitting of Pangea into different landmasses into what we today know as continents. Pangea was one large uniform landmass before the continental drift. The evidence provided by biogeographers that supports this argument is the difference between monkeys found in the eastern and western hemispheres.

2. What is biogeography, and why is it important?

Biogeography can be defined as studying the distribution of plants, animals, and microorganisms across varying geographical spaces and geological time. It is important because it helps us understand the impact of humans and global climate change on other species, which helps in natural habitat conservation, crop planning, etc.

3. What are the two types of biogeography?

We can classify biogeography into two broad categories: historical and ecological biogeography. Historical biogeographical aims at studying the distribution of species due to their evolutionary history, whereas ecological biogeography studies the impact of environmental changes and prevalent environmental conditions on the existence of species in a particular geographical location.

4. What is plant biogeography?

Plant biogeography is the study of the distribution of plant species across different geographical spaces and geological times.

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  1. Biogeography. https://www.britannica.com/science/biogeography. Accessed 10 Dec, 2021.

  2. Biogeography. https://flexbooks.ck12.org/cbook/ck-12-biology-flexbook-2.0/section/5.17/primary/lesson/biogeography-bio/. Accessed 10 Dec, 2021.

  3. Biogeography: Species Distribution. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-biogeography-1435311. Accessed 10 Dec, 2021.

  4. Biodiversity and biogeography of the atmosphere. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2010.0283. Accessed 10 Dec, 2021.