The dispersal of alien species redefines biogeography in the Anthropocene

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Science  12 Jun 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6240, pp. 1248-1251
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa8913

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Emerging patterns in species distribution

Human influences are leading to a shift in the geographical distribution of animal species. Capinha et al. compared the distributions of native mollusk species with those introduced to new areas by human activities. The ranges of native species are still broadly constrained by limitations on their capacity for dispersal, whereas those of the introduced aliens are affected more by climate and patterns of human movement. As humans continue to break down barriers to dispersal, more species' distributions will come to be limited by their environmental tolerances.

Science, this issue p. 1248


It has been argued that globalization in human-mediated dispersal of species breaks down biogeographic boundaries, yet empirical tests are still missing. We used data on native and alien ranges of terrestrial gastropods to analyze dissimilarities in species composition among 56 globally distributed regions. We found that native ranges confirm the traditional biogeographic realms, reflecting natural dispersal limitations. However, the distributions of gastropods after human transport are primarily explained by the prevailing climate and, to a smaller extent, by distance and trade relationships. Our findings show that human-mediated dispersal is causing a breakdown of biogeographic barriers, and that climate and to some extent socioeconomic relationships will define biogeography in an era of global change.

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