Biogeography, Biology tutorial

Definition of Biogeography:

Biogeography is the study of distribution of plants and animals all through the world. From this, it is identified that each of the continents has its own characteristic fauna and flora. In Africa, for instance, we find rhinoceroses, hyenas, giraffes, zebras, lions, hippopotamuses, chimpanzees and gorillas. South America has none of these. Instead, it has jaguars, raccoons, opossums, pumas, and armadillos. Marsupials are found in Australia and South America, but not in Europe. Such observations have led biogeographers to separate world in six major faunal regions. Also, six main floral regions have been recognized. Evolutionists claim that most sensible explanation for the biogeographic distributions is that different animals and plants evolved independently, from ancestors that colonized different areas of world thousands or millions of years ago. Further proof for this is argued from the study of island biogeography.

Actually, some biogeographic observations are very difficult to describe within evolutionary framework. Biogeography is the branch of geography which studies past and present distribution of world's several species. It is generally considered to be the part of physical geography as it frequently associates to examination of physical environment and how it affects species and shaped their distribution across space. As such it studies world's biomes and taxonomy - naming of species. Additionally, biogeography has strong ties to ecology, biology, climatology, evolution studies, and soil science.

Biogeography is a study of distribution of species (biology) spatially (geography) and temporally (history). Biogeography aims to disclose where organisms live, at what abundance, and why they are (or are not) found in certain geographical area. It is significant as branch of geography which sheds light on natural habitats around world. It is also necessary in understanding why species are in their present locations and in developing protecting world's natural habitats. Biogeography is synthetic science, associated to biology, geology, soil science, climatology, geography, ecology and evolution.

Historical Development of Biogeography:

Edward O. Wilson, a famous biologist and conservationist, coauthored "The Theory of Island Biogeography" and helped to begin much of the research which has been done on this topic since work of Watson and Wallace about a century before. Scientific theory of biogeography grows out of work of Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), Hewett Cottrell Watson (1804-1881), Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), and Philip Lutley Sclater (1829-1913) and other biologists and explorers. Wallace studied distribution of flora and fauna in Amazon Basin and Malay Archipelago in mid-19th century. Wallace and Sclater saw biogeography as the source of support for theory of evolution. The field of biogeography would be seen as the solely descriptive one. Publication of The Theory of Island Biogeography by Robert MacArthur and E.O. Wilson in 1967 illustrated that species richness of the area could be forecasted in terms of such factors as habitat area, immigration rate and extinction rate. This added to long-standing interest in island biogeography. Application of island biogeography theory to habitat fragments spurred development of fields of conservation biology and landscape ecology.

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

Kinds of Biogeography:

Today, biogeography is broken in three main fields of study. Three fields are historical biogeography, ecological biogeography, and conservation biogeography. Every field, though, looks at phytogeography (past and present distribution of plants) and zoogeography (past and present distribution of animals). Historical biogeography is known as paleobiogeography and studies past distributions of species. It looks at their evolutionary history and things like past climate change to find out why certain species may have developed in particular area. For instance historical approach would say there are more species in tropics than at high latitudes as tropics experienced less severe climate change in glacial periods. This led to fewer extinctions and more stable populations over time. Branch of historical biogeography is known as paleobiogeography as it frequently comprises paleogeographic ideas- most notably plate tectonics. This kind of research uses fossils to show movement of species across space through moving continental plates. Paleobiogeography also takes changeable climate as a result of physical land being in different places in account for presence of different plants and animals.

Ecological biogeography looks at current factors responsible for distribution of plants and animals. Most common fields of research inside ecological biogeography are primary productivity, climatic equability, and habitat heterogeneity.

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