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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Frontiers of Biogeography (FoB) is the scientific magazine 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: Frontiers of Biogeography new logo. This logo feeds on the theme created for the new IBS corporate image, and represents four overlapping hypervolumes in the form of a butterfly’s wings, flying over four niche response curves in the form of hills, mountains and the sea (see Dawson et al. in this issue for details).


Introduction, Establishment, Invasion, Accommodation: innovation and disruption in biogeographic publishing

Frontiers of Biogeography launched eight years ago, merging the missions of a newsletter and a book, to deliver a series of integrative and interdisciplinary volumes to a diverse community of biogeographers. The journal purposefully was pitched as a 'magazine' aiming to distinguish itself from existing biogeography journals with syntheses and prospectives that would push forward the boundaries of biogeography philosophy and practice.  Here, we review the development of the journal since 2009, we survey the journal's current niche in the biogeography publishing ecosystem, and we look forward to changes in the coming year(s) that will further advance our mission to enhance your biogeographical research.

It’s not (all) about the money — supporting IPBES through challenging times

"An IPCC for biodiversity" – this is what many people were hoping for when the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was founded. IPBES has had a very promising start – with a comprehensive conceptual framework and an ambitious work program. Its first published thematic assessment on pollinators, pollination and food production received wide attention within the scientific community and far beyond; the uptake by decision makers at national and regional levels has been impressive. However, during its last plenary session in March 2017, IPBES was confronted with difficult decisions due to insufficient financial pledges to the Platform’s Voluntary Trust Fund. Here, we discuss the potential consequences of the budget cuts as well as other challenges IPBES is facing, such as in facilitating stakeholder engagement. We encourage all biogeographers and other biodiversity scientists to engage in the IPBES process - to give IPBES a chance to flourish and thereby to give biodiversity an opportunity to remain on the global political agenda.

Opinions, Perspectives & Reviews

Oceanic island biogeography: Nomothetic science of the anecdotal

Islands get more than their fair share of attention from biogeographers, macroecologists and evolutionary biologists. Adding to this existing bias, I claim that oceanic islands, especially oceanic island archipelagos (and among them, especially the Hawaii, the Canaries, Azores and, of course, the Galapagos) attract much more scientific attention than the insights they offer or warrant. This focus on oceanic islands ignores other island types that may be better heuristic tools for studies of general ecological, biogeographic and evolutionary dynamics. The evolutionary and ecological dynamics of landbridge and continental islands are often as fast, dramatic, interesting and insightful, and merit more attention from island biogeographers.


The global distribution of plant species richness in a human-dominated world

Plant species richness is essential for ecosystem functioning, resilience and ecosystem services, yet is globally threatened by anthropogenic land use, including management and modification of the natural environment. At broad scales, land-use effects are often simply modelled by habitat loss, assuming that transformed land becomes completely inhospitable for naturally occurring species. Further, estimates of species losses are flawed by the common assumption of a universal slope of the species–area curve, typically ranging from 0.15 to 0.35. My PhD dissertation consists of a global species–area analysis, a meta-analysis about land-use effects on plant species richness and an approach to integrate these land-use effects in a countryside species–area model. Overall, my PhD research contributes to a deeper understanding of species–area relationships and how patterns of species richness at macroscales are driven by land use. It proposes a model to predict species richness patterns of vascular plants that overcomes limitations of previous models.

Taxonomic and functional ecology of montane ants

Why is biological diversity distributed in the way that it is? This question has been central to ecology and biogeography for centuries and is of great importance for pure and applied reasons. I use a functional trait view of ecology to complement standard sampling protocols to better understand the distribution and structure of ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) diversity across mountains. I use a long-term dataset of ant diversity and abundance, combined with a recently collected morphological trait dataset to examine how the alpha and beta diversity of ants responds to changes in temperature along an extensive elevational gradient in southern Africa. In addition, I link morphological thermoregulatory traits to each other and to the environment with a new database of ant elevational abundances from across the globe. Finally, I analyse how physiological thermal tolerances vary and constrain foraging patterns in montane ants. I find that temperature is a strong driver of both alpha and beta diversity patterns. In addition, morphological traits such as colour and body size are found to have a significant relationship to ambient temperatures. This relationship also implies that the relative abundances of different ant species change depending on their thermoregulatory traits (colour and body size) and the surrounding thermal environment. Furthermore, the critical thermal minimum (CTmin) of the ant species investigated and the lowest environmental temperatures are found to be key in constraining foraging activity patterns. The data presented here strengthen and link existing ideas about how thermoregulation can influence ecological communities and also suggests important ways in which diversity patterns may change in the future.

Global dynamics of dispersal and diversification among passerine birds

Explaining global variation in geographic and taxonomic diversity gradients represents a central focus of macroecology and macroevolution. Ultimately, these diversity gradients have been generated over deep timescales as a consequence of historical variation in rates of dispersal, diversification, and the capacity of different geographic areas to preserve taxa through time. Here, I assess the relationships among these processes, to elucidate the causes of geographic and taxonomic variation in species richness among the most speciose order of birds: the Passeriformes (c. 6,500 species). To achieve this, I comparatively analyze phylogenetic, distributional and eco-morphological trait data collated at broad taxonomic and spatial scales. The results of my analyses strongly support the prevalence of historical dispersal events across large geographic scales, in addition to spatiotemporal variation in diversification rates. These findings reflect that some lineages and some geographic regions (notably tropical mountain regions and island archipelagoes) generate and maintain a much larger amount of species diversity than others. In addition, the evolution of particular life-history and eco-morphological traits, specifically pair breeding systems, and higher wing aspect-ratios, increased rates of range expansion and diversification. In summary, geographic variation in historical diversification combined with differences in the capacity of lineages to colonize new areas, determines spatial and taxonomic differences in passerine species richness.


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Frontiers of Biogeography new logo. This logo feeds on the theme created for the new IBS corporate image, and represents four overlapping hypervolumes in the form of a butterfly’s wings, flying over four niche response curves in the form of hills, mountains and the sea (see Dawson et al. in this issue for details).