Geographia Polonica (2014) vol. 87, iss. 2

Biogeography in the early twenty-first century: A science with increasing significance to Earth’s changes and challenges

Udo Schickhoff, Mark A. Blumler, Andrew C. Millington

Geographia Polonica (2014) vol. 87, iss. 2, pp. 221-240 | Full text

Biogeography is, in essence, the geography of nature or more specifically, the study of the distribution of Earth’s life forms at all spatial and temporal scales. This paper traces the historical development of biogeography from ancient times to the twenty-first century, highlights contemporary trends and expansions, and previews future prospects. The cumulative discovery of biogeographic patterns culminated in the development of the theory of evolution – biogeography’s greatest contribution to science. The paradigm shift to causal approaches in the early twentieth century led to ecological biogeography emerging as the second pillar of biogeography in additionto historical biogeography. Fostered by the acceptance of plate tectonics, the equilibrium theory of islandbiogeography, the rapid advancement of new perspectives and methods in historical biogeography, and revolutionary advances in compiling, visualizing, and analyzing spatially explicit information, biogeography evolved into a rigorous science during the second half of the twentieth century. Currently, major active sub-fields arephylo geography, macroecology, and conservation biogeography. Biogeography is on the way to becoming a ‘bigscience’, entering an era of increasingly integrative and multi-faceted approaches, increasingly accessible andavailable data, tools, and techniques, and interdisciplinary collaboration. Given unprecedented human impacts and the dramatic transformation of the Earth system, biogeography matters more than ever, both in the discoveryand in the conservation of biodiversity.

Keywords: biodiversity, biogeographic patterns, conservation, distribution, ecology, history, interdisciplinarity, macroecology, phylogeography

Udo Schickhoff, Chair of the IGU Commission on Biogeography and Biodiversity
Mark A. Blumler, University of Hamburg Institute of Geography CEN Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability
Andrew C. Millington, University of Hamburg Institute of Geography CEN Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability