Biogeography's data, again

Alec McClay alec at ARC.AB.CA
Thu Apr 18 09:39:25 CDT 2002


On Thu, 18 Apr 2002 09:59:07 +1000, Robert Mesibov
<mesibov at SOUTHCOM.COM.AU> wrote:

 >The 'units' in biogeography are the inventories of life in particular
 >places (e.g., the flora and fauna of cedar glades in Tennessee), not
 >individual species and their individual ranges.......
 >Please understand, however, what biogeographers are trying to
 >do. They are NOT primarily trying to write spatial histories to add to the
 >genetic histories in the dossiers of individual species.

This seems like an arbitrary limitation on the scope of the discipline. No
doubt, it is an interesting and legitimate enterprise to try to understand
the spatial and historical relationships of whole biotas on various parts
of the Earth's surface. But it is surely also a legitimate question to ask
how a particular taxon came to have the distribution that it does. This is
a question about the geographical context in which particular biological
events took place. How does it not belong to biogeography? It's a bit like
saying that ecology is only concerned with the properties of whole food
webs or communities, and that therefore a study of the population dynamics
of a particular species is not an ecological study.

And as I mentioned in my post yesterday, there are actual practical reasons
why it would be useful to have answers to some of the questions about
individual species.

 >many non-biogeographers raise a quizzical eyebrow when they
 >hear the acrimonious debates between biogeographical 'schools'.

Consider my eyebrows quizzically raised.

Alec McClay
Research Scientist, Biological Control of Weeds

alec at arc.ab.ca           Alberta Research Council
Phone (780) 632-8207     Bag 4000, Vegreville
Fax   (780) 632-8612     Alberta T9C 1T4, Canada

http://www.arc.ab.ca/




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