Human Habitat: Maps of Anthropogenic Biomes

Anthropogenic Biomes of Africa

“Anthropogenic biomes describe globally-significant ecological patterns within the terrestrial  biosphere caused by sustained direct human interaction with ecosystems, including  agriculture, urbanization, forestry and other land uses. Conventional biomes, such as tropical rainforests or grasslands, are based on global vegetation patterns related to climate. Now that humans have fundamentally altered global patterns of ecosystem form, process, and biodiversity, anthropogenic biomes provide a contemporary view of the terrestrial biosphere in its human-altered form. Anthropogenic biomes may also be termed “anthromes” to distinguish them from conventional biome systems, or “human biomes” (a simpler but less precise term).”  -Erle Ellis and Navin Ramankutty

Continuing the dialogue of defining what is urban and its extents, Scientists Erle Ellis and Navin Ramankutty have provided a comparative definition with Anthropogenic Biomes.  That reinforces a systemic definition of urban that entails an unavoidable synthesis of “natural”/self sustaining and human constructed ecologies, similar to the definition of urban as defined in contemprary urban ecology:

“Urban ecosystems comprise suburban areas, exurbs, sparsely settled villages connected by commuting corridors, or by utilities, and hinterlands directly managed or affected by the energy and material from the urban core and suburban lands. -Pickett , S.T.A., et al

Erle Ellis and Navin Ramankutty state:

“Viewing a global map of anthropogenic biomes shows clearly the inextricable intermingling of human and natural systems almost everywhere on Earth’s terrestrial surface, demonstrating that interactions between these systems can no longer be avoided in any significant way…


Recent analyses have demonstrated that more than three quarters of Earth’s land surface has been reshaped by human activity. Less than a quarter of Earth’s ice-free land is wild, and only 20% of this is forests; >36% is barren, such that Earth’s remaining wildlands account for only about 10% of global net primary production. More than 80% of all people live in the densely populated urban and village biomes that cover approximately 8% of global ice-free land. Agricultural villages are the most extensive of all densely populated biomes; one in four people lives within them.”

North America

“Though still at an early stage of development, anthropogenic biomes offer a framework for incorporating humans directly into models and investigations of the terrestrial biosphere and its changes, providing an essential foundation for ecological research in the 21st century.”

The maps are relatively course grained but provide a global perspective of how we currently occupy and use the surface of the earth.  Best of all the maps are now viewable in Google Earth and Google Maps for quick viewing here.  A large PDF map of the entire globe and GIS shape files are also available.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: