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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Frontiers of Biogeography

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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: Sonora Desert in Arizona, Saguaro National Park, USA. Picture by Felix Gottwald. Public Domain. Source:

News & Update

Advances and links between ecological niche models and phylogeography

Phylogeography and ecological niche modelling are two key approaches advancing biogeography. A special issue of Folia Zoologica (64: 2015) considers these advances in eight articles, including two reviews—on Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) and Ecological Niche Modelling (ENM)—and six research articles, plus two book reviews. The reviews on NGS and ENM stand out as the main interests of the issue. The six research articles provide different biogeographical case studies in which phylogeography and ENM are used together, representing a timely comparison of the current most common practices and the advances highlighted by the reviews.

Opinions, Perspectives & Reviews

A second horizon scan of biogeography: Golden Ages, Midas touches, and the Red Queen

Are we entering a new ‘Golden Age’ of biogeography, with continued development of infrastructure and ideas? We highlight recent developments, and the challenges and opportunities they bring, in light of the snapshot provided by the 7th biennial meeting of the International Biogeography Society (IBS 2015). We summarize themes in and across 15 symposia using narrative analysis and word clouds, which we complement with recent publication trends and ‘research fronts’. We find that biogeography is still strongly defined by core sub-disciplines that reflect its origins in botanical, zoological (particularly bird and mammal), and geographic (e.g., island, montane) studies of the 1800s. That core is being enriched by large datasets (e.g. of environmental variables, ‘omics’, species’ occurrences, traits) and new techniques (e.g., advances in genetics, remote sensing, modeling) that promote studies with increasing detail and at increasing scales; disciplinary breadth is being diversified (e.g., by developments in paleobiogeography and microbiology) and integrated through the transfer of approaches and sharing of theory (e.g., spatial modeling and phylogenetics in evolutionary–ecological contexts). Yet some subdisciplines remain on the fringe (e.g., marine biogeography, deep-time paleobiogeography), new horizons and new theory may be overshadowed by popular techniques (e.g., species distribution modelling), and hypotheses, data, and analyses may each be wanting. Trends in publication suggest a shift away from traditional biogeography journals to multidisciplinary or open access journals. Thus, there are currently many opportunities and challenges as biogeography increasingly addresses human impacts on, and stewardship of, the planet (e.g., Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services). As in the past, biogeographers doubtless will continue to be engaged by new data and methods in exploring the nexus between biology and geography for decades into the future. But golden ages come and go, and they need not touch every domain in a discipline nor affect subdisciplines at the same time; moreover, what appears to be a Golden Age may sometimes have an undesirable ‘Midas touch’. Contexts within and outwith biogeography—e.g., methods, knowledge, climate, biodiversity, politics—are continually changing, and at times it can be challenging to establish or maintain relevance. In so many races with the Red Queen, we suggest that biogeography will enjoy greatest success if we also increasingly engage with the epistemology of our discipline.

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Changes in small-mammal diversity and ecology in relation to landscape and climate change over the Neogene

The middle Miocene from 17 to 14 Ma was a time of elevated mammalian diversity in western North America that coincided with the regional development of topographic complexity and the last global warming interval of the Neogene. Understanding the evolutionary and ecological processes that govern past diversity trends and contribute to modern diversity gradients in relation to landscape and climate requires the integration of faunal and paleoenvironmental datasets across spatio-temporal scales. Using a variety of approaches, I analyzed small-mammal and environmental data to investigate diversity and dietary-ecology responses to changes in climate across space today and through time during the middle Miocene. I additionally utilized fossil-record simulations to assess the influence of variable preservation history on estimates of diversification rates in relation to landscape change. This thesis sheds light on how interactions between tectonic activity and climate warming influenced species richness and ecology from local to regional scales.


Response to letter regarding “Limited Scope for Latitudinal Extension of Reef Corals”

In their recent letter, Madin et al. (2016) dispute our findings in Muir et al. (2015a) that reduced levels of light during winter confine staghorn corals to shallower depths at higher latitudes and will ultimately limit their scope for latitudinal expansion as oceans warm. We based our conclusions on a rich global dataset analysed using two types of analyses: polynomial quantile regression models and species distribution models. Madin and colleagues’ reanalysis of our data focuses only on the quantile regression model, and in our view, provides no convincing quantitative evidence in support of their proposition that most species exhibit either no trend or a reverse trend to the one we described.



The LifeWebs project: A call for data describing plant-herbivore interaction networks

Understanding global drivers of changes in species interactions is vital, both in terms of improving our knowledge of fundamental large-scale ecology, and in order to predict and protect against human-driven changes to ecosystems. Here we present the LifeWebs project, which aims to collate existing data on interaction networks in order to understand their large-scale patterns. Initially we will collate data relating to plant–herbivore interactions, and this article is a call for contributions. We outline the kinds of data in which we are interested, the procedure for making contributions, and what contributors can expect in terms of co-authorship on subsequent papers and access to the database for conducting their own analyses.


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