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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Frontiers of Biogeography

Frontiers of Biogeography bannerUC Merced


Frontiers of Biogeography (FoB) is the scientific journal of the International Biogeography Society (IBS,, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promotion of and public understanding of the biogeographical sciences.  IBS launched FoB to provide an independent forum for biogeographical science, with the academic standards expected of a journal operated by and for an academic society.

Issue cover
Cover caption: Northeast-looking view of the Strait of Gibraltar from space, with the Iberian Peninsula to the left and Nothern Morocco to the right. See Real’s editorial in this issue of Frontiers of Biogeography (10.3-4, e41756) for an overview of the biogeographical significance of this width strait. Picture by NASA, available at under a public domain license.


Writing the future of biogeography

Scientific publishing has seen many changes in its ~350 years of existence. Nonetheless, the changes currently underway may be among the most radical. The five major biogeography journals (Diversity and Distributions, Ecography, Frontiers of Biogeography, Global Ecology and Biogeography, and Journal of Biogeography) are indicative of the major undercurrents in publishing today: two are society owned, three are owned by a private publisher; two are open access, three are reader-pays; four are published by a for‐profit publisher, one is not; three are double-blind review, two are the traditional single blind. Despite these differences, we serve as editors-in-chief for these journals for one common reason: to make sure there is a healthy publishing ecosystem available to communicate biogeographical research. With that goal in mind, here, we provide a brief potted history of scientific publishing to contextualize the modern publishing environment. We consider what current trends may mean for the future of scientific publishing. And we highlight a suite of factors that we recommend be considered when choosing a venue in which to publish your research. We particularly wish to emphasize one point: while editors-in-chief may guide journals, and editors and reviewers shape the science that is published, all journals depend ultimately on the manuscripts that authors choose to submit. For this reason, authors have great power over the future of the publishing landscape. To ensure a healthy landscape, we feel it is critical that all authors—but especially we senior and mid-career authors—are educated about today’s complex world of publication and make informed choices about where to submit, which signals to publishers the criteria that our community values. Authors’ choices now have potential to shape a sustainable publishing environment that better serves current and future generations of biogeographers.

Research Articles

Community structure of woody plants on islands along a bioclimatic gradient

Understanding patterns of community structure and the causes for their variation can be furthered by comparative biogeographic analyses of island biotas. We used woody plant data at the local scale to investigate variations in species rarity, alpha, beta, and gamma diversity within and between three islands from the oceanic archipelagoes of Azores, Canaries and Mascarene. We used standardized protocols to sample ten 50 m × 50 m forest plots in each of the three islands with contrasting climate and regional species pools: Terceira (Azores), Tenerife (Canaries), and Reunion (Mascarene Islands). Occupancy frequency distributions and species abundance distributions were used to investigate rarity. The partitioning of beta diversity in a distance-decay framework was used to test for spatial patterns of community composition. Rarity was much more pronounced in the highly diverse islands of Tenerife and Reunion than in the regionally poorer island of Terceira. The number of species rose faster with increasing sample area in both Tenerife and Reunion. The slope of the species rank abundance curve was steeper in Terceira whereas the richer island assemblages approached a lognormal model. Compositional changes according to spatial distance were mostly due to replacement of species in Terceira and Reunion. Our results point to important differences in the community structure of Terceira, which is the less diverse and temperate region in comparison to Tenerife and Reunion which are highly diverse.

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An integrated ecological, genetic and geological assessment of long-distance dispersal by invertebrates on kelp rafts

Long-distance dispersal (LDD) is thought to be a key driver of biogeographic processes, yet few direct natural observations have been made of this process. Several studies have characterised diverse benthic epibiotic communities associated with buoyant macroalgae and have proposed that kelp rafting may be an important LDD mechanism for such coastal species. We test for LDD by combining biological, genetic, and geological data from rafted bull-kelp (Durvillaea antarctica) specimens collected in southern New Zealand following a March 2018 storm. Genetic and ecological data strongly indicate that three of 29 detached kelp specimens sequenced (and their associated live epifaunal taxa) had rafted from the sub-Antarctic to mainland New Zealand, traversing both oceanographic and phylogeographic barriers, over the course of an approximately 4-week journey. Numerous additional epifaunal taxa were detected from rafts that had geologically-distant mainland origins. The successful trans-oceanic rafting documented for sub-Antarctic brooding sea-star, chiton and sea-slug taxa presents a mechanism for their broad but phylogeographically disjunct Southern Hemisphere distributions. Moreover, the detection of several such LDD events over the last decade suggests that such journeys are very common over evolutionary timeframes. Although geological and genetic data were informative over different scales, we detected no conflict between the inferences from these distinct data sets, a finding that reinforces the value of integrative approaches to marine biogeography.

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Opinions, Perspectives & Reviews

Archipelagos and meta-archipelagos

The term meta-archipelago has been in use in cultural studies for some time, to refer to certain complex island areas in which the boundaries between conventionally recognised archipelagos are indistinct, although the concept also carries additional connotations. Use of the term in biogeography appears more recent and without effort to prescribe its meaning. We outline, from a biogeographical perspective, distinctions between meta-archipelagos and archipelagos and those islands not occurring within either collective grouping, highlighting that network analysis tools provide metrics for formal analytical purposes.


MSc Island Biodiversity and Conservation

The Jersey International Centre of Advanced Studies (JICAS) and the University of Exeter have partnered to create a fresh and exctiting research-led prgramme of study aimed at creating the next generation of practiioners, academics and problem solvers.

The threat to islands climate changes poses is real and need immediate answers and solutions. This degree addresses these challanges and more with modules focusing on island biogeography, island ecology, evolution and extinction on islands, islands and climate change as well as two filedwork modules in Sark, Channel Islands and Tenerife, Canary Islands.

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Northeast-looking view of the Strait of Gibraltar from space, with the Iberian Peninsula to the left and Nothern Morocco to the right. See Real’s editorial in this issue of Frontiers of Biogeography (10.3-4, e41756) for an overview of the biogeographical significance of this width strait. Picture by NASA, available at under a public domain license.