More Info

Thursday, November 13, 2008


An ecozone or biogeographic realm is the largest scale biogeographic division of the earth's surface based on the historic and evolutionary distribution patterns of plants and animals. Ecozones represent large areas of the earth's surface where plants and animals developed in relative isolation over long periods of time, and are separated from one another by geologic features, such as oceans, broad deserts, or high mountain ranges, that formed barriers to plant and animal migration. Ecozones correspond to the floristic kingdoms of botany or zoogeographic regions of mammal zoology. Simply they are a definition of the plants and animals in a region further divided by the land form region. (Example the taiga ecozone in Canada is divided into the taiga plains, and taiga shield.)

Ecozones are characterized by the evolutionary history of the plants and animals they contain. As such, they are distinct from biomes, also known as major habitat types, which are divisions of the earth's surface based on life form, or the adaptation of plants and animals to climatic, soil, and other conditions. Biomes are characterized by similar climax vegetation. Each ecozone may include a number of different biomes. A tropical moist broadleaf forest in Central America, for example, may be similar to one in New Guinea in its vegetation type and structure, climate, soils, etc., but these forests are inhabited by plants and animals with very different evolutionary histories.

The patterns of plant and animal distribution in the world's ecozones was shaped by the process of plate tectonics, which has redistributed the world's land masses over geological history.

The term ecozone, as used here, is a fairly recent development, and other terms, including kingdom, realm, and region, are used by other authorities to denote the same meaning. In some older works, continent is used, which leads to confusion with the geographic/geologic continents. J. Schultz uses the term "ecozone" to refer his classification system of biomes.

WWF Ecozones

The ecozones are based largely on the biogeographic realms of Pielou (1979) and Udvardy (1975). A team of biologists convened by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) developed a system of eight biogeographic realms (ecozones) as part of their delineation of the world's over 800 terrestrial ecoregions.

* Nearctic 22.9 mil. km² (including most of North America)
* Palearctic 54.1 mil. km² (including the bulk of Eurasia and North Africa)
* Afrotropic 22.1 mil. km² (including Sub-Saharan Africa)
* Indomalaya 7.5 mil. km² (including Afghanistan and Pakistan, the South Asian subcontinent and Southeast Asia)
* Australasia 7.7 mil. km² (including Australia, New Guinea, and neighbouring islands). The northern boundary of this zone is known as the Wallace line.
* Neotropic 19.0 mil. km² (including South America and the Caribbean)
* Oceania 1.0 mil. km² (including Polynesia, Fiji and Micronesia)
* Antarctic 0.3 mil. km² (including Antarctica).

The WWF scheme is broadly similar to Udvardy's system, the chief difference being the delineation of the Australasian ecozone relative to the Antarctic, Oceanic, and Indomalayan ecozones. In the WWF system, The Australasia ecozone includes Australia, Tasmania, the islands of Wallacea, New Guinea, the East Melanesian islands, New Caledonia, and New Zealand. Udvardy's Australian realm includes only Australia and Tasmania; he places Wallacea in the Indomalayan Realm, New Guinea, New Caledonia, and East Melanesia in the Oceanian Realm, and New Zealand in the Antarctic Realm.


The WWF scheme further subdivides the ecozones into bioregions, defined as "geographic clusters of ecoregions that may span several habitat types, but have strong biogeographic affinities, particularly at taxonomic levels higher than the species level (genus, family)." The WWF bioregions are as follows:

* Afrotropic
* Antarctic
* Australasia
o Wallacea
o New Guinea and Melanesia
* Indomalaya
o Indian subcontinent
o Indochina
o Sunda Shelf and Philippines
* Nearctic
o Canadian Shield
o Eastern North America
o Northern Mexico
o Western North America
* Neotropical
o Amazonia
o Caribbean
o Central America
o Central Andes
o Eastern South America
o Northern Andes
o Orinoco
o Southern South America
* Oceania
* Palearctic

No comments: