Determination of potential distributions of species

Rui Cerqueira


Traditional methods to determine spatial distributions of the organisms, which form the basis of biogeography, do not consider the ecology of species. However, given the ecological individuality of each species, areas of occurrence based on environmental factors are biologically more meaningful. Given that distributions are fluid even within ecological time, a distribution based on ecological factors should be a potential one. Several concepts are useful to establish hypothesis of potential distributions, especial1y limiting factors, scales of biological phenomena, and empirical points of occurrence. These concepts help to understand the factors (like elevation, climate, vegetation, etc) which determine the distribution of organisms both at a local scale and at bigger scales. From these factors a hypothesis of distribution is proposed, they are common to all factors being the potential distribution. This approach is exemplified with a study on the distribution of three species of the bird genus Formicivora (Forrnicaridae).

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