Geography Conservation Biogeography
Kenneth R. Young
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0043


Conservation biogeography is a relatively new academic endeavor that brings conservation and applied concerns to the fore by combining the traditions of biogeography with the concerns of conservation biology. Biogeography is a well-established scientific discipline that examines the spatial organization of biological diversity. Typically this is done by (1) observation of ecological and other biophysical factors that affect the distributions of species and of biotic communities or ecosystems; or (2) examination of historical happenings and evolutionary mechanisms that changed those species and their distributions through climate change, plate tectonics, species interactions, or other events or processes. Often, a biogeographer uses biological data to elucidate the evolutionary lineages of a group of organisms and then queries the implications of those lineages in order to understand the histories of the relevant parts of the Earth’s surface. Biogeographers also pose questions about the distributions of assemblages of species, including the types of vegetation and the ecosystem processes that structure the land cover of the Earth. Conservation biogeography uses both these paradigms to examine the implications of past and present distributions in order to plan for the protection of biodiversity under current and possible future conditions. It is inspired by the agenda and research achievements of conservation biology, but it may draw upon even wider academic frameworks given the interdisciplinary nature of biogeography.

General Overviews

Because of the relatively new status of conservation biogeography, general overviews are limited. The International Society of Biogeography supports development of conservation biogeography, through peer reviews such as Whittaker, et al. 2005 as well as publication of the textbook Ladle and Whittaker 2011. Richardson and Whittaker 2010 provides an updated assessment. Primack 2014 is a major textbook covering conservation biology; while Lomolino, et al. 2016 is an exhaustive account of the discipline of biogeography, with much information directly relevant to conservation concerns. Lomolino, et al. 2004 explores biogeography’s history in detail, while its likely future is sketched out in Lomolino and Heaney 2004. Millington, et al. 2011 is a useful source for understanding how geographers study biogeography.

  • Ladle, Richard J., and Robert J. Whittaker, eds. Conservation Biogeography. Chichester, UK: Wiley, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781444390001

    Currently the definitive textbook for conservation biogeography. Presented as an edited volume, it includes also an extensive bibliography and suggested readings.

  • Lomolino, Mark V., and Lawrence R. Heaney, eds. Frontiers of Biogeography: New Directions in the Geography of Nature. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer, 2004.

    An exciting set of chapters in this edited volume delimits the novel ways that biogeographers are exploring the past and current distributions of species. There are sections on paleobiogeography, phylogeography, diversity gradients, marine biogeography, and conservation biogeography.

  • Lomolino, Mark V., Dov F. Sax, and James H. Brown, eds. Foundations of Biogeography: Classic Papers with Commentaries. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

    This massive volume contains copies of seventy-two important publications in biogeography that document the history of the discipline. Introductory commentaries help provide context to each section of the volume. May be used to evaluate the importance of biogeography in affecting other disciplines.

  • Lomolino, Mark V., Brett R. Riddle, Robert J. Whittaker, and James H. Brown. Biogeography. 5th ed. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer, 2016.

    This is the most comprehensive textbook treatment of the entire field of biogeography, including much information on its history and the various academic controversies that have developed.

  • Millington, Andrew, Mark Blumler, and Udo Schickhoff, eds. The SAGE Handbook of Biogeography. London: SAGE, 2011.

    This edited volume provides numerous examples of how geographers define and implement biogeography. It has sections on theory, distributions, biomes, mapping/modeling, and how biogeography links to human dimensions, including ethnobotany and nature conservation.

  • Primack, Richard B. Essentials of Conservation Biology. 6th ed. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer, 2014.

    Useful textbook on the application of conservation biology to solving environmental concerns.

  • Richardson, David M., and Robert J. Whittaker. “Conservation Biogeography—Foundations, Concepts and Challenges.” Diversity and Distributions 16.3 (2010): 313–320.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1472-4642.2010.00660.x

    Challenges include the need to consider the implications of scale and sampling limitations, and to improve the evaluation of models. This article is the introduction to other articles in the same volume on conservation biogeography.

  • Whittaker, Robert J., Miguel B. Araújo, Paul Jepson, Richard J. Ladle, James E. M. Watson, and Katherine J. Willis. “Conservation Biogeography: Assessment and Prospect.” Diversity and Distributions 11.1 (2005): 3–23.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1366-9516.2005.00143.x

    This pioneering effort provides the history, justification, and organization of efforts to create conservation biogeography as an academic space. Concerns raised include the difficulties finding appropriate models, data, and taxonomic expertise.

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