Biogeography is, in essence, the geography of nature or more specifically, the study of the distribution of Earth's life forms at all spatial and temporal scales. This paper traces the historical development of biogeography from ancient times to the twenty-first century, highlights contemporary trends and expansions, and previews future prospects. The cumulative discovery of biogeographic patterns culminated in the development of the theory of evolution - biogeography's greatest contribution to science. The paradigm shift to causal approaches in the early twentieth century led to ecological biogeography emerging as the second pillar of biogeography in addition to historical biogeography. Fostered by the acceptance of plate tectonics, the equilibrium theory of island biogeography, the rapid advancement of new perspectives and methods in historical biogeography, and revolutionary advances in compiling, visualizing, and analyzing spatially explicit information, biogeography evolved into a rigorous science during the second half of the twentieth century. Currently, major active sub-fields are phylogeography, macroecology, and conservation biogeography. Biogeography is on the way to becoming a 'big science', entering an era of increasingly integrative and multi-faceted approaches, increasingly accessible and available data, tools, and techniques, and interdisciplinary collaboration.
- Biogeographic patterns