Countryside Biogeography: the Controls of Species Distributions in Human-Dominated Landscapes


Purpose of Review

Countryside biogeography seeks to explain the distribution of wildlife in human-dominated landscapes. We review the theoretical and empirical progress towards this goal, assessing what forces control the presence, abundance, and richness of species in anthropogenic and natural habitats, based on characteristics of the landscape and the species themselves.

Recent Findings

Recent modifications of species-area relationships that incorporate multiple habitat types have improved understanding of species diversity in countryside landscapes. Attempts to understand why species affiliate with human-modified habitats have been met with only partial success. Though traits frequently explain associations with human-modified habitats within studies, explanatory traits are only rarely shared between studies, regions, or taxa. Nonetheless, greater attention to the regional and climatological context of countryside landscapes has uncovered that (i) species that associate with human-modified habitats within landscapes tend to occur primarily in warm and/or dry biomes at regional scales and (ii) species that rely exclusively on human-modified habitats in cool or wet regions may be restricted to natural habitats in warm or dry regions.


There remains a pressing need to determine how biodiversity can best be supported within landscapes to preserve nature and maximize ecosystem service benefits for humans. Future work in countryside biogeography must identify how land-use change interacts with other global stressors (e.g., climate change), determine how extinction debt and population sinks influence diversity, quantify the cascading effects of community changes on ecosystem services, and elucidate the evolutionary history and origins of species that today dwell in the countryside.

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Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Frishkoff, L.O., Ke, A., Martins, I.S. et al. Countryside Biogeography: the Controls of Species Distributions in Human-Dominated Landscapes. Curr Landscape Ecol Rep 4, 15–30 (2019).

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  • Anthropocene
  • Ecosystem services
  • Traits
  • Matrix
  • Fragmentation