Biogeography: nature dynamics and transformations

Adriano Figueiró

One of the most fascinating fields of knowledge, Biogeography approaches the relation between living beings and society and the different elements of landscapes, its dynamics and transformations through time. The solid theoretic and methodological basis allied to vivid illustrations, photographs and explanatory charts will capture the reader.

The book deals, in a didactic language, the concepts of species distribution, extinction and biodiversity conservation, population dynamics, Cultural Biogeography and biomes of terrestrial surface. It also presents the applicability of these concepts through several examples from Brazil and the world, in addition to boxes with reports about the fauna relation with the radioactive accident in Chernobyl, the threat to biodiversity in Madagascar or the ecological impact of highways, among others important and dramatic examples.

With this approach, Biogeography fills an important lacuna in bibliography, advancing a few steps the construction of a solid Biogeography. It serves as reference for Geography, Biology, Agronomy and Ecology students and professionals and broads horizons to the general audience.

Original title
Biogeografia: dinâmicas e transformações da natureza
Year of publication

About the authors

Adriano Figueiró

Adriano Figueiró graduated in Geography by the Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM) and got a Masters in Use and Conservation of Natural Resources by the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), a Doctorate in Environmental Planning by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and a post-doctorate in Geoconservation by University of Minho, Portugal. Currently is an associate professor in UFSM, where orientates undergraduate and graduate students in a Research in Natural Heritage, Geoconservation and Water Management Group (Pangea), and coordinates the Geoecology and Environmental Education Lab (Laged).

Author's CV.

1 Introduction to the study of Biogeography

1.1 How and why living organisms distribute in Earth’s surface?

1.2 Concept, object, approach methods and research areas for Biogeography

1.3 Historical development of biogeographic knowledge

1.4 Elaboration of a paradigm for landscape study


2 Processes of speciation and species distribution patterns

2.1 Speciation processes and evolutional answers

2.2 Coevolution of environments and living beings

2.3 Great biogeographic regions on the planet

2.4 Classification of distribution areas


3 Extinction patterns and biodiversity conservation

3.1 Mapping the planetary biodiversity

3.2 Introduction of exotic species and environmental impacts

3.3 Mechanisms of landscape fragmentation

3.4 Theories of biodiversity conservation: from insular biogeography to the theory of metapopulations


4 The current dynamics of populations in ecosystems

4.1 Energy flow and the nutrients cycle in biosphere

4.2 Ecosystems structure and operation

4.3 Living beings distribution factors

4.4 Live and die in an ecosystem: cooperation and competition processes


5 Cultural biogeography elements

5.1 Human species emergence and evolution

5.2 The domestication process of plants and animals

5.3 From artificial selection to artificial production of new species: broadening the frontiers of nature

5.4 Biogeographic mechanisms in agroecosystems

5.5 The role of Biogeography in urban landscape planning


6 The great biogeographic groups of present world

6.1 Initial considerations about biodiversity spatialization in Earth’s surface

6.2 Terrestrial biomes

6.3 Fresh water ecoregions

6.4 Oceanic ecoregions

6.5 Current climate changes and alterations in the living beings distribution patterns




Situated in the interface between Physical Geography and the Human Geography, the Biogeography has been challenging generations of researches to come up with an explanation of reality in which the landscape can be comprehended as a dialectic resultant of man’s and nature’s actions in different scales of time and space.

The complexity of this ambitious attempt to reach a synthesis of biosphere facing the fragmented heritage of the positivist legacy to the geographic thought of the XX century resulted often in biogeographers inclination to methods and questioning typical of natural sciences, even appealing to naturalists ready explanations, only to fill a lacuna about life distribution on the planet the geographers seemed to feel impotent to investigate by their own means. The myth of the existence of a man-independent nature delayed the development of a Biogeography identified with the research object of geographers, and it took many decades of so called natural landscapes incorporation to the human action logic for us to start to understand that what we call natural or artificial are just dimensions of a same nature, connected by a spiral of time and submitted to the laws of Physic and Economics. The National Tijuca Park, in Rio de Janeiro, the biggest urban forest in the world, developed in an area that a little more than a century ago was covered by coffee plantations the same way several climax formations in European parks were tilling fields in the Middle Ages or destroyed and contaminated fields during the Great Wars. The nature installed after the human abandonment preserves its marks and these are what the geographer must unveil to explain the imposed reality.

As referred by Leff (2001 p. 49), “as long as nature transforms itself in work processes object the natural absorbs itself in the historic materialism. This doesn’t deny them to operate the biological laws of process participant organisms, including the men and its workforce”.

News announced by the world press in 2010 adds on a few elements to this reflexion: was located in Canada, through the interpretation of a satellite image, what is considered to be the biggest natural dam in the world, a giant embankment 850 m long being constructed since 1970 inside a national park by several beavers generations. According to the news new elements are added to the dam which in a decade time could reach to 950 m. When we compare technology, the purpose, the matter transformation and the work expended in that natural structure to those made by the man, we realize the limit between what we consider natural and artificial is only the human absence or presence and this difference, in our understanding, is too small for we continue to believe the “Geography of Life” has in society and in nature chapters so distinct and irreconcilables in their questions and forms of approach.

This book is just a small contribution for this great effort of rethinking Biogeography, to update its questions and search new ways that allow a more fruitful dialogue with the geographic speech. Many lacunas still persist in this book and they certainly come from the still small baggage geographers managed to collect for a Brazilian Biogeography. Notwithstanding the great effort of some pioneers such as Dora Romariz, Aziz Ab’Sáber, Helmut Troppmair and Felisberto Cavalheiro, to whom we are all debtors, still there is a lot to go through. My hope is to this book to be a pleasant companion in this journey.

Adriano S. Figueiró
Portugal, Autumn 2013