CMEC Zoogeographic Realms and Regions – University of Copenhagen

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CMEC Zoogeographic Realms and Regions

This study updated Alfred Russel Wallace's 1876 map on the zoogeographic regions of the world, which has been the backbone for our understanding of global biodiversity for over a century. The research is published in Science. Free access is available to the abstract, print version and online-version.

Our work is based on the distributions and phylogenetic relationships of all terrestrial mammals, birds and amphibians. The details and references for these data sources are provided in the materials and methods section of our manuscript. The bird distributional data were compiled here at the Center of Macroecology, Evolution and Climate (CMEC) and further details for these data can be obtained by following the link at the bottom of the page. The phylogenetic and distributional data for all three taxonomic groups were combined to produce our updated version of Wallace’s map.

Our global map divides the world into 11 zoogeographic realms, which are further subdivided into 20 regions. Google Earth and GIS maps of zoogeographic realms and regions can also be found here.

For information regarding the analytical code developed for the study please contact Ben Holt –


Ben G. Holt,  Jean-Philippe Lessard,  Michael K. Borregaard,  Susanne A. Fritz,  Miguel B. Araújo, Dimitar Dimitrov,  Pierre-Henri Fabre,  Catherine H. Graham,  Gary R. Graves, Knud A. Jønsson, David Nogués-Bravo,  Zhiheng Wang,  Robert J. Whittaker,  Jon Fjeldså, and Carsten Rahbek (2013), An Update of Wallace’s Zoogeographic Regions of the World. Science 339 (6115), p74-78, published online 20 December 2012 (10.1126/science.1228282).

Google Earth maps of CMEC zoogeographic realms and regions

Download map

  1. Make sure you have Google Earth installed on your computer. You can download it from here
  2. Open the file by double-clicking on the file ”CMEC regions & realms.kmz” in your ”Downloads” folder. You can also open the files from within the Google Earth software.

GIS maps of CMEC zoogeographic realms and regions

Download all maps

  1. Requires version 10.x of ArcGIS
  2. After downloading the zip file ”CMEC regions &”, extract the files to your desktop or other folder. Double-click on ”CMEC regions & realms.mxd”. You can also open the shape files directly from within ArcGIS.

Taxon specific regions

Download realms and regions classified by taxon (birds, mammals, amphibians)

  1. Requires ArcGIS or another GIS capable of reading shape-files.
  2. After downloading the zip file ””, extract the files to your desktop or other folder. You can open the shape files directly from within your GIS.

The Copenhagen global avian distributional database

Rahbek, C., Hansen, L.A., and Fjeldså, J. 2012. One degree resolution database of the global distribution of birds. The Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. (Read more)

View list of references for the avian distributional database