Range Limits


The range of a species is the area over which individuals of that species can be found. To understand range we need to consider the behaviour of individuals (individual movement and the dispersal of propagules) and the biotic (resources, enemies, and competitors) and abiotic variables that influence the potential and actual range of species.

Keywords: species range; home range; dispersal; competition; range expansion

Figure 1.

Various hypothetical depictions of individuals (dots) in a population and the connections of these individuals into a range (solid line): (a) individuals in a ring; (b) range determined as a convex hull; (c) the effect of the movement of one individual on the estimate of the range size using the convex hull algorithm; (d) graph connecting individuals using edges.

Figure 2.

The range expansion of the muskrat in Europe (after Skellam, ).

Figure 3.

The approximate ranges of 11 woody species found in western New York State, USA (‘X’). Courtesy of Katie Fitzgerald.

Figure 4.

A statistically normal, two‐dimensional distribution of 1000 points.



Andow DA, Karieva PM, Levin SA and Okubo A (1990) Spread of invading organisms. Landscape Ecology 4(2/3): 177–188.

Bascompte J and Vilà C (1997) Fractals and search paths in mammals. Landscape Ecology 12: 213–221.

Clark JS, Fastie C and Hurtt G et al. (1998) Reid's paradox of rapid plant migration. BioScience 48(1): 13–24.

Hartvigsen G (2000) The analysis of leaf shape using fractal geometry. The American Biology Teacher 62(9): 664–669.

Keitt TH, Lewis MA and Holt RD (2001) Allee effects, invasion pinning, and species' borders. American Naturalist 157(2): 203–216.

Lawson EJG and Rodgers AR (1997) Differences in home‐range size computed in commonly used software programs. Wildlife Society Bulletin 25(3): 721–729.

Powell RA (2000) Animal home ranges and territories and home range estimators. In: Boitani L and Fuller TK (eds) Research Techniques in Animal Ecology: Controversies and Consequences New York: Columbia University Press.

Pulliam HR (1988) Sources, sinks, and population regulation. American Naturalist 132: 652–661.

Rapoport EH (1982) Areography: Geographical Strategies of Species New York: Pergamon Press.

Skellam JG (1951) Random dispersal in theoretical populations. Biometrika 38: 196–218.

Stevens GC (1989) The latitudinal gradients in geographic range: how so many species coexist in the tropics. American Naturalist 132: 250–256.

Thomas CD, Bodsworth EJ and Wilson RJ et al. (2001) Ecological and evolutionary processes at expanding range margins. Nature 411: 577–581.

Tilman D (1994) Competition and biodiversity in spatially structured habitats. Ecology 75(1): 2–16.

White GM, Boshier DH and Powell W (2002) Increased pollen flow counteracts fragmentation in a tropical dry forest: an example from Swietenia humilis Zuccarini. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 99: 2038–2042.

Further Reading

Brown JH and Lomolino MV (1998) Biogeography 2nd edn. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.

Okubo A (1980) Diffusion and Ecological Problems: Mathematical Models. Berlin: Springer‐Verlag.

Shigesada N and Kawasaki K (1997) Biological Invasions: Theory and Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Turchin P (1998) Quantitative Analysis of Movement: Measuring and Modeling Population Redistribution in Plants and Animals. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Hartvigsen, Gregg(May 2005) Range Limits. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0003238]