Bioregions 2020

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= "184 discreet bioregions".



Karl Burkart:

"If Nature were to draw a map of the world what would it look like? We’ve grown accustomed to seeing the world divided into 195 countries, but there is another way to see, and better understand, the planet we call home. One Earth presents a novel biogeographical framework called Bioregions 2020, which builds upon the world’s 846 terrestrial ecoregional divisions (Dinerstein et al. 2017) to delineate 184 discreet bioregions.

Two years in development, with input from an array of field scientists, conservation experts, and geographers, the Bioregions 2020 framework offers a novel biogeographical approach to transnational conservation and land use planning, encouraging systems thinking across silos and administrative boundaries. The bioregions are also useful in as an educational tool, helping individuals to better understand the underlying ecological fabric of life that surrounds them. Lastly, Bioregions 2020 provides a framework to support grantmaking and scientific research across a group of related ecosystems.

The 846 terrestrial ecoregions of the Earth (Dinerstein et al. 2017) overlayed with Bioregions 2020 polygons. A finite number of ecoregions are contained within the perimeter of each bioregion, with the exception of mangroves which in some cases extend across one or more bioregions. Credit: Karl Burkart

While referenced frequently in scientific literature for conservation planning, the terrestrial ecoregions are often too small and too numerous to be used for country-level or large-scale regional planning efforts. In many cases the spatial configuration of one ecoregion is embedded within another and cannot be considered apart. One clear example of this is the U.S. Central Rocky Mountain Forests which are tightly interlinked with the Montana Valley Grasslands. In other cases, groups of similar ecoregions that are adjacent to each other, for example the three northern grassland ecoregions just to the east of the Rockies, share similar attributes and thus from a conservation perspective could be considered in tandem.

One major benefit of this bioregional framework is that it allows for the integration of all three types of ecoregions – terrestrial, freshwater, and marine -- into a cohesive system. The portion of rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds that flow through a terrestrial ecoregion are included in the bioregion, and in some cases a watershed’s footprint influences the grouping of overlapping terrestrial ecoregions. Similarly, bioregions with coastal edges are extended to the corresponding country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) boundaries. While EEZs are administrative, not biological, boundaries they do provide an ecosystem constraint as most fishing and industrial activities occur within the EEZs. “Marine Ecoregions of the World” (Spalding et al. 2007) was referenced heavily in Bioregions 2020, and in many cases informs the clustering of adjacent terrestrial ecoregions.

The 184 bioregions are organized by the world’s eight biogeographical realms, the broadest division of the Earth's land surface within which groupings of organisms share a common evolutionary history -- Nearctic, Neotropic, Palearctic, Afrotropic, Indomalay, Australasia, Oceania, and Antarctic. The realms roughly correspond to the major continents of the Earth but are further subdivided to coincide with familiar climatic zones. For example, the Neotropical realm is divided into Central America and Southern America. These realm divisions – 14 in total -- provides the overarching content framework for the One Earth website and its Project Marketplace." (