Palearctic realm
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The Palearctic or Palaearctic is the largest of the eight biogeographic realms of the Earth. It stretches across all of Eurasia north of the foothills of the Himalayas, and North Africa.
The Palearctic realm
The realm consists of several ecoregions: the Euro-Siberian region; the Mediterranean Basin; the Sahara and Arabian Deserts; and Western, Central and East Asia. The Palaearctic realm also has numerous rivers and lakes, forming several freshwater ecoregions.
The term 'Palearctic' was first used in the 19th century, and is still in use as the basis for zoogeographic classification.
In an 1858 paper for the Proceedings of the Linnean Society, British zoologist Philip Sclater first identified six terrestrial zoogeographic realms of the world: Palaearctic, Aethiopian/Afrotropic, Indian/Indomalayan, Australasian, Nearctic, and Neotropical. The six indicated general groupings of fauna, based on shared biogeography and large-scale geographic barriers to migration.[1]
Frontispiece to Alfred Russel Wallace's book The Geographical Distribution of Animals
Alfred Wallace adopted Sclater's scheme for his book The Geographical Distribution of Animals, published in 1876. This is the same scheme that persists today, with relatively minor revisions, and the addition of two more realms: Oceania and the Antarctic realm.
Major ecological regions
The Palearctic realm includes mostly boreal/subarctic-climate and temperate-climate ecoregions, which run across Eurasia from western Europe to the Bering Sea.
Euro-Siberian region
Main article: Euro-Siberian region
The boreal and temperate Euro-Siberian region is the Palearctic's largest biogeographic region, which transitions from tundra in the northern reaches of Russia and Scandinavia to the vast taiga, the boreal coniferous forests which run across the continent. South of the taiga are a belt of temperate broadleaf and mixed forests and temperate coniferous forests. This vast Euro-Siberian region is characterized by many shared plant and animal species, and has many affinities with the temperate and boreal regions of the Nearctic realm of North America. Eurasia and North America were often connected by the Bering land bridge, and have very similar mammal and bird fauna, with many Eurasian species having moved into North America, and fewer North American species having moved into Eurasia. Many zoologists consider the Palearctic and Nearctic to be a single Holarctic realm. The Palearctic and Nearctic also share many plant species, which botanists call the Arcto-Tertiary Geoflora.
Mediterranean Basin
Main article: Mediterranean Basin
The lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea in southern Europe, north Africa, and western Asia are home to the Mediterranean Basin ecoregions, which together constitute the world's largest and most diverse mediterranean climate region of the world, with generally mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. The Mediterranean basin's mosaic of Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub are home to 13,000 endemic species. The Mediterranean basin is also one of the world's most endangered biogeographic regions; only 4% of the region's original vegetation remains, and human activities, including overgrazing, deforestation, and conversion of lands for pasture, agriculture, and urbanization, have degraded much of the region. Formerly the region was mostly covered with forests and woodlands, but heavy human use has reduced much of the region to the sclerophyll shrublands known as chaparral, matorral, maquis, or garrigue. Conservation International has designated the Mediterranean basin as one of the world's biodiversity hotspots.
Sahara and Arabian deserts
A great belt of deserts, including the Atlantic coastal desert, Sahara desert, and Arabian desert, separates the Palearctic and Afrotropic ecoregions. This scheme includes these desert ecoregions in the palearctic realm; other biogeographers identify the realm boundary as the transition zone between the desert ecoregions and the Mediterranean basin ecoregions to the north, which places the deserts in the Afrotropic, while others place the boundary through the middle of the desert.
Western and Central Asia
The Caucasus mountains, which run between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, are a particularly rich mix of coniferous, broadleaf, and mixed forests, and include the temperate rain forests of the Euxine-Colchic deciduous forests ecoregion.
Central Asia and the Iranian plateau are home to dry steppe grasslands and desert basins, with montane forests, woodlands, and grasslands in the region's high mountains and plateaux. In southern Asia the boundary of the Palearctic is largely altitudinal. The middle altitude foothills of the Himalaya between about 2000–2500 m form the boundary between the Palearctic and Indomalaya ecoregions.
East Asia
China, Korea and Japan are more humid and temperate than adjacent Siberia and Central Asia, and are home to rich temperate coniferous, broadleaf, and mixed forests, which are now mostly limited to mountainous areas, as the densely populated lowlands and river basins have been converted to intensive agricultural and urban use. East Asia was not much affected by glaciation in the ice ages, and retained 96 percent of Pliocene[citation needed] tree genera, while Europe retained only 27 percent. In the subtropical region of southern China and southern edge of the Himalayas, the Palearctic temperate forests transition to the subtropical and tropical forests of Indomalaya, creating a rich and diverse mix of plant and animal species. The mountains of southwest China are also designated as a biodiversity hotspot. In Southeastern Asia, high mountain ranges form tongues of Palearctic flora and fauna in northern Indochina and southern China. Isolated small outposts (sky islands) occur as far south as central Myanmar (on Nat Ma Taung, 3050 m), northernmost Vietnam (on Fan Si Pan, 3140 m) and the high mountains of Taiwan.
The realm contains several important freshwater ecoregions as well, including the heavily developed rivers of Europe, the rivers of Russia, which flow into the Arctic, Baltic, Black, and Caspian seas, Siberia's Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake on the planet, and Japan's ancient Lake Biwa.
Flora and fauna
One bird family, the accentors (Prunellidae), is endemic to the Palearctic region. The Holarctic has four other endemic bird families: the divers or loons (Gaviidae), grouse (Tetraoninae), auks (Alcidae), and waxwings (Bombycillidae).
There are no endemic mammal orders in the region, but several families are endemic: Calomyscidae (mouse-like hamsters), Prolagidae, and Ailuridae (red pandas). Several mammal species originated in the Palearctic and spread to the Nearctic during the Ice Age, including the brown bear (Ursus arctos, known in North America as the grizzly), red deer (Cervus elaphus) in Europe and the closely related elk (Cervus canadensis) in far eastern Siberia, American bison (Bison bison), and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus, known in North America as the caribou).
Megafaunal extinctions
Several large Palearctic animals became extinct from the end of the Pleistocene into historic times, including Irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus), aurochs (Bos primigenius), woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis), woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), North African elephant (Loxodonta africana pharaoensis), Chinese elephant (Elephas maximus rubridens), cave bear (Ursus spelaeus), and European lion (Panthera leo europaea).
Palearctic terrestrial ecoregions
Palearctic tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests
Guizhou Plateau broadleaf and mixed forests
Yunnan Plateau subtropical evergreen forests
Palearctic temperate broadleaf and mixed forests
Apennine deciduous montane forestsItaly
Atlantic mixed forestsBelgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands
Azores temperate mixed forestsPortugal
Balkan mixed forestsBosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Turkey
Baltic mixed forestsDenmark, Germany, Poland, Sweden
Cantabrian mixed forestsPortugal, Spain
Caspian Hyrcanian mixed forestsAzerbaijan, Iran
Caucasus mixed forestsArmenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, Turkey
Celtic broadleaf forestsIreland, United Kingdom
Central Anatolian deciduous forestsTurkey
Central China loess plateau mixed forestsChina
Central European mixed forestsAustria, Belarus, Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland
Central Korean deciduous forestsNorth Korea, South Korea
Changbai Mountains mixed forestsChina, North Korea
Changjiang Plain evergreen forestsChina
Crimean Submediterranean forest complexRussia, Ukraine
Daba Mountains evergreen forestsChina
Dinaric Mountains mixed forestsAlbania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia
East European forest steppeBulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Ukraine
Eastern Anatolian deciduous forestsTurkey
English Lowlands beech forestsUnited Kingdom
Euxine–Colchic deciduous forestsBulgaria, Georgia, Turkey
Hokkaido deciduous forestsJapan
Huang He Plain mixed forestsChina
Madeira evergreen forestsPortugal
Manchurian mixed forestsChina, North Korea, Russia, South Korea
Nihonkai evergreen forestsJapan
Nihonkai montane deciduous forestsJapan
North Atlantic moist mixed forestsIreland, United Kingdom
Northeast China Plain deciduous forestsChina
Pannonian mixed forestsAustria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine
Po Basin mixed forestsItaly
Pyrenees conifer and mixed forestsAndorra, France, Spain
Qin Ling Mountains deciduous forestsChina
Rodope montane mixed forestsBulgaria, Greece, North Macedonia, Serbia
Sarmatic mixed forestsBelarus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Russia, Sweden
Sichuan Basin evergreen broadleaf forestsChina
South Sakhalin–Kurile mixed forestsRussia
Southern Korea evergreen forestsSouth Korea
Taiheiyo evergreen forestsJapan
Taiheiyo montane deciduous forestsJapan
Tarim Basin deciduous forests and steppeChina
Ussuri broadleaf and mixed forestsRussia
West Siberian broadleaf and mixed forestsRussia
Western European broadleaf forestsAustria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Switzerland
Zagros Mountains forest steppeIran, Iraq, Turkey
Palearctic temperate coniferous forests
Alps conifer and mixed forestsAustria, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland
Altai montane forest and forest steppeChina, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia
Caledon conifer forestsUnited Kingdom
Carpathian montane conifer forestsCzech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine
Da Hinggan–Dzhagdy Mountains conifer forestsChina, Russia
East Afghan montane conifer forestsAfghanistan, Pakistan
Elburz Range forest steppeIran
Helanshan montane conifer forestsChina
Hengduan Mountains subalpine conifer forestsChina
Hokkaido montane conifer forestsJapan
Honshū alpine conifer forestsJapan
Khangai Mountains conifer forestsMongolia
Mediterranean conifer and mixed forestsAlgeria, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia
Northeastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forestsChina, India, Bhutan
Northern Anatolian conifer and deciduous forestsTurkey
Nujiang Langcang Gorge alpine conifer and mixed forestsChina
Qilian Mountains conifer forestsChina
Qionglai–Minshan conifer forestsChina
Sayan montane conifer forestsMongolia, Russia
Scandinavian coastal conifer forestsNorway
Tian Shan montane conifer forestsChina, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan
Palearctic boreal forests/taigavte
East Siberian taigaRussia
Iceland boreal birch forests and alpine tundraIceland
Kamchatka–Kurile meadows and sparse forestsRussia
Kamchatka–Kurile taigaRussia
Northeast Siberian taigaRussia
Okhotsk–Manchurian taigaRussia
Sakhalin Island taigaRussia
Scandinavian and Russian taigaFinland, Norway, Russia, Sweden
Trans-Baikal conifer forestsMongolia, Russia
Urals montane tundra and taigaRussia
West Siberian taigaRussia
Palearctic temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands
Alai–Western Tian Shan steppeKazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
Altai steppe and semi-desertKazakhstan
Central Anatolian steppeTurkey
Daurian forest steppeChina, Mongolia, Russia
Eastern Anatolian montane steppeArmenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Turkey
Emin Valley steppeChina, Kazakhstan
Faroe Islands boreal grasslandsFaroe Islands, Denmark
Gissaro–Alai open woodlandsKyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
Kazakh forest steppeKazakhstan, Russia
Kazakh steppeKazakhstan, Russia
Kazakh UplandsKazakhstan
Mongolian–Manchurian grasslandChina, Mongolia, Russia
Pontic steppeKazakhstan, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria
Sayan Intermontane steppeRussia
Selenge–Orkhon forest steppeMongolia, Russia
South Siberian forest steppeRussia
Syrian xeric grasslands and shrublandsIraq, Jordan, Syria
Tian Shan foothill arid steppeChina, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan
Amur meadow steppeChina, Russia
Bohai Sea saline meadowChina
Nenjiang River grasslandChina
Nile Delta flooded savannaEgypt
Saharan halophyticsAlgeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Tunisia, Western Sahara
Tigris–Euphrates alluvial salt marshIraq, Iran
Ussuri-Wusuli meadow and forest meadowChina, Russia
Yellow Sea saline meadowChina
Altai alpine meadow and tundraChina, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia
Central Tibetan Plateau alpine steppeChina
Eastern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadowsBhutan, Myanmar, China, India, Nepal
Ghorat–Hazarajat alpine meadowAfghanistan
Hindu Kush alpine meadowAfghanistan
Karakoram–West Tibetan Plateau alpine steppeAfghanistan, China, India, Pakistan
Khangai Mountains alpine meadowMongolia
Kopet Dag woodlands and forest steppeIran, Turkmenistan
Kuh Rud and Eastern Iran montane woodlandsIran
Mediterranean High Atlas juniper steppeMorocco
North Tibetan Plateau–Kunlun Mountains alpine desertChina
Northwestern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadowsChina, India, Pakistan
Ordos Plateau steppeChina
Pamir alpine desert and tundraAfghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan
Qilian Mountains subalpine meadowsChina
Sayan alpine meadows and tundraMongolia, Russia
Southeast Tibet shrub and meadowsChina
Sulaiman Range alpine meadowsAfghanistan, Pakistan
Tian Shan montane steppe and meadowsChina, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan
Tibetan Plateau alpine shrublands and meadowsChina
Western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadowsIndia, Nepal
Yarlung Zambo arid steppeChina
Palearctic tundravte
Arctic desertRussia, Svalbard (Norway)
Bering tundraRussia
Cherskii–Kolyma mountain tundraRussia
Chukchi Peninsula tundraRussia
Kamchatka Mountain tundra and forest tundraRussia
Kola Peninsula tundraNorway, Russia
Northeast Siberian coastal tundraRussia
Northwest Russian–Novaya Zemlya tundraRussia
New Siberian Islands arctic desertRussia
Scandinavian montane birch forest and grasslandsFinland, Norway, Sweden
Taimyr–Central Siberian tundraRussia
Trans-Baikal Bald Mountain tundraRussia
Wrangel Island arctic desertRussia
Yamalagydanskaja tundraRussia
Palearctic Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub
Aegean and Western Turkey sclerophyllous and mixed forestsGreece, North Macedonia, Turkey
Anatolian conifer and deciduous mixed forestsTurkey
Canary Islands dry woodlands and forestsSpain
Corsican montane broadleaf and mixed forestsFrance
Crete Mediterranean forestsGreece
Cyprus Mediterranean forestsCyprus
Eastern Mediterranean conifer–sclerophyllous–broadleaf forestsIsrael, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey
Iberian conifer forestsSpain
Iberian sclerophyllous and semi-deciduous forestsPortugal, Spain
Illyrian deciduous forestsAlbania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Slovenia
Italian sclerophyllous and semi-deciduous forestsFrance, Italy
Mediterranean acacia-argania dry woodlands and succulent thicketsMorocco, Canary Islands (Spain)
Mediterranean dry woodlands and steppeAlgeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia
Mediterranean woodlands and forestsAlgeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia
Northeastern Spain and Southern France Mediterranean forestsFrance, Monaco, Spain
Northwest Iberian montane forestsPortugal, Spain
Pindus Mountains mixed forestsAlbania, Greece, North Macedonia
South Apennine mixed montane forestsItaly
Southeastern Iberian shrubs and woodlandsSpain
Southern Anatolian montane conifer and deciduous forestsIsrael, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey
Southwest Iberian Mediterranean sclerophyllous and mixed forestsPortugal, Spain
Tyrrhenian–Adriatic sclerophyllous and mixed forestsCroatia, France, Italy, Malta
Palearctic deserts and xeric shrublands[2]
Afghan Mountains semi-desertAfghanistan
Alashan Plateau semi-desertChina, Mongolia
Arabian DesertEgypt, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
Atlantic coastal desertMauritania, Western Sahara
Azerbaijan shrub desert and steppeAzerbaijan, Georgia, Iran
Badghyz and Karabil semi-desertAfghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Baluchistan xeric woodlandsAfghanistan, Pakistan
Caspian lowland desertIran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan
Central Afghan Mountains xeric woodlandsAfghanistan
Central Asian northern desertKazakhstan, Uzbekistan
Central Asian riparian woodlandsKazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Central Asian southern desertKazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Central Persian desert basinsAfghanistan, Iran
Eastern Gobi desert steppeChina, Mongolia
Gobi Lakes Valley desert steppeMongolia
Great Lakes Basin desert steppeMongolia, Russia
Junggar Basin semi-desertChina, Mongolia
Kazakh semi-desertKazakhstan
Kopet Dag semi-desertIran, Turkmenistan
Mesopotamian shrub desertIraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Syria
North Saharan steppe and woodlandsAlgeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Western Sahara
Paropamisus xeric woodlandsAfghanistan
Persian Gulf desert and semi-desertBahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates
Qaidam Basin semi-desertChina
Red Sea coastal desertEgypt, Sudan
Red Sea Nubo–Sindian tropical desert and semi-desertEgypt, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
Registan–North Pakistan sandy desertAfghanistan, Iran, Pakistan
Sahara desertAlgeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Niger, Sudan, Western Sahara
South Iran Nubo–Sindian desert and semi-desertIran, Iraq, Pakistan
South Saharan steppe and woodlandsAlgeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sudan
Taklimakan desertChina
Tibesti–Jebel Uweinat montane xeric woodlandsChad, Egypt, Libya, Sudan
West Saharan montane xeric woodlandsAlgeria, Mali, Mauritania, Niger
  1. ^ Sclater, Philip Lutley (1858). "On the general geographical distribution of the members of the class Aves". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 2 (7): 130–145. doi​:​10.1111/j.1096-3642.1858.tb02549.x​.
  2. ^ Eric Dinerstein, David Olson, et al. (2017). An Ecoregion-Based Approach to Protecting Half the Terrestrial Realm, BioScience, Volume 67, Issue 6, June 2017, Pages 534–545 [1]
General references
External links
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Palearctic (category)
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Eurasian wildlife.
Last edited on 18 May 2021, at 10:17
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