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Ecological land classification

Ecological land classification is defined as being a cartographical delineation of


distinct ecological areas, identified by their geology, topography, soils,
vegetation, climate conditions, living species, water resources, as well as
anthropic factors. These factors are known to control or influence biotic
composition and ecological processes. As a consequence, they provide a useful
approximation of ecosystem potentials.

Many different lists have been proposed over time. They were sometimes
proposed for conservation efforts. Part of the list proposed below is inspired by
Miklos Udvardy classification of the Biographical Provinces in the World which
was prepared by Unesco's Man and the Biosphere program, published in 1975
and updated in 1982.

Udvardy's Biogeographical provinces take into account both flora and fauna.
Botanists and zoologists have developed other ecological land classification
schemes; botanists have identified floristic provinces based on plant
communities, while zoologists have identified zoogeographic provinces based on
faunal communities.

Important applications of this information is in planning for future land uses and
land conservation decisions.

This classification can be applied at different scales with a holistic approach.


Additionally, there are parallel classification terms used in the study of the biotic
and abiotic components of an ecosystem at similar spatial scales. From largest to
smallest, classical levels are:

CLASSIFICATION LEVELS IN ECOSYSTEMS Biotic Abiotic

ECOSYSTEM BIOGEOGRAPHY ZOOGEOGRAPHY PHYTOGEOGRAPHY PHYSIOGRAPHY


GEOLOGY PEDOLOGY

ecozone biome floral kingdom

ecoprovince floral province geoprovince

ecoregion bioregion floral region physioregion georegion


pedoregion

ecodistrict

ecosection
ecosite

ecotope biotope‡ zootope‡ phytotope‡ physiotope geotope‡


pedotope

ecoelement bioelement geoelement

Sources: ‡ These words are all loanwords from German science.

A crucial concept of land classification, is that each of the areas defined either
remains the same over a certain period of time or shows a slow gradual change,
without large, sudden changes. This means it is a system in a kind of equilibrium.
It postulates an area is an open system with a certain self-regulation
(homeostasis or homeorhesis). Indeed management of land usually aims at a
steady state (persistent or at least relatively constant), which means either pure
conservation (prevention of damage) or at least sustainability (no deterioration
through use).