An ecoregion is "a relatively large area of land or water that contains a geographically distinct assemblage of natural communities."
This description is part of a definition, by the World Wildlife Fund that is widely accepted and used. However, the use of the term "relatively large" is interpreted differently in different locales. Another way of looking at an ecoregion is a "recurring pattern of ecosystems associated with characteristic combinations of soil and landform that characterise that region" (Brunckhorst, 2000). Others have defined ecoregions as areas of ecological potential based on combinations of biophysical parameters such as climate and topography. Biodiversity is also an important aspect of the study of ecoregions. The biodiversity of flora, fauna and ecosystems that characterise an ecoregion tend to be distinct from that of other ecoregions.
The World Wilfdlife Fund's full definition of an ecoregion is the following:
A large area of land or water that contains a geographically distinct assemblage of natural communities that
- (a) share a large majority of their species and ecological dynamics;
- (b) share similar environmental conditions, and;
(c) interact ecologically in ways that are critical for their long-term persistence.
- --World Wildlife Fund - Ecoregions
World Wildlife Fund ecologists currently divide the land surface of the Earth into 8 major ecozones containing 867 smaller terrestrial ecoregions (see list). Many consider this classification to be quite decisive, and some propose these as stable borders for bioregional democracy initiatives.
The ecozones are very well-defined, following major continental boundaries, while the ecoregions are subject to more change and controversy. Accordingly, Wikipedia organizes ecology articles under each of the ecozones.
The use of the term ecoregion is an outgrowth of a surge of interest in ecosystems and their functioning. In particular, there is awareness of issues relating to spatial scale in the study and management of landscapes. It is widely recognized that interlinked ecosystems combine to form a whole that is "greater than the sum of its parts." There are many attempts to respond to ecosystems in an integrated way to achieve "multi-functional" landscapes and various interest groups from agricultural researchers to conservationists are using the ecoregion as a unit of analysis.
- Brunckhorst, D. 2000. Bioregional planning: resource management beyond the new millennium. Harwood Academic Publishers: Sydney, Australia.
Last updated: 06-02-2005 13:13:56