Geographic range limits: Achieving synthesis

Kevin J. Gaston

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

340 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding of the determinants of species' geographic range limits remains poorly integrated. In part, this is because of the diversity of perspectives on the issue, and because empirical studies have lagged substantially behind developments in theory. Here, I provide a broad overview, drawing together many of the disparate threads, considering, in turn, how influences on the terms of a simple single-population equation can determine range limits. There is theoretical and empirical evidence for systematic changes towards range limits under some circumstances in each of the demographic parameters. However, under other circumstances, no such changes may take place in particular parameters, or they may occur in a different direction, with limitation still occurring. This suggests that (i) little about range limitation can categorically be inferred from many empirical studies, which document change in only one demographic parameter, (ii) there is a need for studies that document variation in all of the parameters, and (iii) in agreement with theoretical evidence that range limits can be formed in the presence or absence of hard boundaries, environmental gradients or biotic interactions, there may be few general patterns as to the determinants of these limits, with most claimed generalities at least having many exceptions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1395-1406
Number of pages12
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1661
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Births
  • Deaths
  • Emigration
  • Immigration
  • Population size
  • Range limits

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