Population demography maintains biogeographic boundaries

Ecol Lett. 2022 Aug;25(8):1905-1913. doi: 10.1111/ele.14058. Epub 2022 Jun 26.


Global biodiversity is organised into biogeographic regions that comprise distinct biotas. The contemporary factors maintaining differences in species composition between regions are poorly understood. Given evidence that populations with sufficient genetic variation can adapt to fill new habitats, it is surprising that more homogenisation of species assemblages across regions has not occurred. Theory suggests that expansion across biogeographic regions could be limited by reduced adaptive capacity due to demographic variation along environmental gradients, but this possibility has not been empirically explored. Using three independently curated data sets describing continental patterns of mammalian demography and population genetics, we show that populations near biogeographic boundaries have lower effective population sizes and genetic diversity, and are more genetically differentiated. These patterns are consistent with reduced adaptive capacity in areas where one biogeographic region transitions into the next. That these patterns are replicated across mammals suggests they are stable and generalisable in their contribution to long-term limits on biodiversity homogenisation. Understanding the contemporary processes that maintain compositional differences among regional biotas is crucial for our understanding of the current and future organisation of global biodiversity.

Keywords: biogeography; conservation; landscape genetics; macroecology; macroevolution; macrogenetics; mammals; management; north and South America; population genetics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity*
  • Biota
  • Demography
  • Ecosystem*
  • Mammals / genetics