Tectonic plates tip the balance

Biogeography. Second Edition - Fundamentals of Biogeography. First Edition
May 28, 1999

Fundamentals of Biogeography and the radically updated Biogeography both aim to introduce biogeography as a discipline to an undergraduate audience. To this end, both cover various aspects of historical, analytical and ecological biogeography, such as the influence of continental drift, differing methods of dispersal and basic aspects of population and community biology. However, while their difference in size makes direct comparison between the two volumes difficult, only Biogeography adequately covers important elements such as plate tectonics, glaciation and the methodologies employed in the investigation of historical biogeography.

Fundamentals of Biogeography consists of a preface, an introduction to the study of biogeography and eight chapters that explore the nature of biogeography: habitats, landscapes and limiting factors in species distribution; common patterns of distribution and methods of dispersal; basic population and community biology; and human influence and applications of biogeographical knowledge. The text concludes with a glossary, suggestions for further reading, a bibliography and a reasonable index. The book is well illustrated with both colour and black-and-white photographs and figures, and it contains many interesting examples of the issues raised. In addition, each chapter concludes with a student-friendly summary, recommends further reading and suggests essay questions for consolidation.

As the title of the book implies, the author has striven to give the student an understanding of the fundamental parameters affecting species distribution. However, while this effort has resulted in an invaluable summary of ecological principles and concepts, the book fails to focus sufficiently on the biogeographical implications of the issues it covers. In addition, with few exceptions, this book concentrates largely on examples from the animal kingdom, making it of rather more limited use to students interested in other types of organism.

Following a preface, Biogeography 's 19 chapters are divided into five units that introduce the discipline and discuss the environmental and historical setting, historical and contemporary patterns and processes, and the role of biogeography in conservation. The book includes most, if not all of the topics covered by Fundamentals of Biogeography , but also provides a number of interesting additions. In particular, it offers an interesting discussion of the development and acceptance of plate tectonic theory, gives a substantial overview of the contributions to biogeography made by distinguished scientists such as Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, and discusses in some depth the methodologies used in reconstructing biogeographic histories.

Like Fundamentals , Biogeography is well illustrated and contains a wealth of examples, including many from the plant kingdom. It too concludes with a glossary, extensive bibliography and index. However, neither book has indices devoted to the organisms discussed in the text.

Despite its lack of biogeographical focus, Fundamentals of Biogeography does provide a comprehensive overview of value to students in a range of ecology-related disciplines. Biogeography , in contrast, gives a more detailed insight into the discipline, effectively integrating ecology and population biology with relevant aspects from earth sciences. As a student text, Biogeography 's value is further enhanced by its revealing historical overviews of many of the issues it addresses.

Catherine Cotton has lectured in ethnobotany and plant biology at the Roehampton Institute, London, and is based in Amsterdam.

Biogeography. Second Edition

Author - James H. Brown and Mark V. Lomolino
ISBN - 0 87893 073 6
Publisher - Sinauer
Price - £35.95
Pages - 691

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