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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Integration and synthesis of quantitative data: Alexander von Humboldt’s renewed relevance in modern biogeography and ecology

  • Author(s): Keppel, Gunnar
  • Kreft, Holger
  • et al.

The integration and synthesis of data from varied sources is becoming increasingly common in biogeography and ecology. Although analyses of large, global datasets from multiple, varied sources only became common recently, such studies trace their origin to the early 19th century. Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was an eminent and much-celebrated scientist, who introduced the concept of collecting high-quality quantitative data across continents. More importantly, he championed inter-disciplinary research, data-driven studies, and global comparative syntheses. With these studies, he helped to lay the foundations for the fields of biogeography and ecology, and his ideas, concepts, and scientific approach remain at the forefront of exciting recent developments in both disciplines. Remembering Humboldt’s 250th birthday, we show how his scientific philosophy and visionary approach to multi-disciplinary data integration and synthesis have recently been revitalized due to increasing computing power and the numerous complex environmental challenges facing our planet.

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