Science of Biogeography: Biogeography Series (Part 1)

Part 1: The Science of Biogeography, in which we discuss what biogeography is and why I created this series.

Before I decided to reroute and go into nursing, I’d wanted to complete my Biology degree (I did) and become the female contemporary Jacques Cousteau (I didn’t). But, back in the days of hope and motivation, I took a Biogeography class at Southeastern Louisiana University with one of my favorite professors. We’re talking 2011. And clearly I wasn’t required to include a Works Cited page because I have no references to offer you.

While this blog tends to mostly be about SCUBA, I like to believe that most of us (noncommercial) divers genuinely enjoy nature and respect the environment. This series is based on a paper that I wrote, and while much of it may be mundane and uninteresting, some of it directly applies to that happy place of salt water and fish pee.

On that note.. onward, water horse!

Alfred Russel Wallace, the British naturalist known as the father of zoogeography, published a two-volume work in the late 1800’s discussing everything he believed to influence both past and present distributions of animals within a geographic region. His text helped give rise to the scientific theory of biogeography. Biogeography describes and seeks to explain geographical distributions of life on Earth. In his publication, Wallace specified that rather than the study of distributions in artificial or political boundaries, biogeography addresses how species are scattered about the planet and why. It asks where various taxa are located. Rich with data, it is based on the accumulation of records of species distribution. Historical scientists like Wallace have contributed to centuries of invaluable research, as well as have others, including Humboldt, who noticed a relationship between area and species, and Darwin, who proposed that natural selection leads to biodiversity.

The science of biogeography encompasses a multitude of disciplines. Biology may be apparent, but special attention is brought to ecology when biogeography examines the distribution of attributes of organisms on Earth. Systematics, morphology, behavioral science, and genetics are just a few other disciplines. Likewise, geology, climatology, soil science, and other geosciences are as essential as geography itself. Paleontology and natural history come into play due to the distribution of species in space as well as time. A general observation of biogeography is that past biotas clearly differ from present biota.

Biogeography helps us understand what makes a habitat desirable for an organism. Abiotic parameters such as soil type, temperature, and precipitation greatly impact an area’s potential for sustaining life. Soil chemistry is essential to life. Soils are not static; they are dynamic, open systems. The alteration of materials makes them available to organisms. Moisture levels and temperature range limit what types of organisms are found in a geographical range. Spatial structure can also limit how many similar organisms are found in these ranges. For instance, distribution patterns are largely dependent on the distance or space between individuals in a population.



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