North American boreal and western temperate forest vegetation

Salvador Rivas-Martínez, Daniel Sánchez-Mata & Manuel Costa

Itinera Geobotanica 12:5-316 (1999)

Go to: Contents - Show Table - Previous Page - Next Page


The Biogeography is the science of the plant species and plant communities distribution on the Earth and their relationships. Studying the actual and preterit areas of the taxa and syntaxa and with the knowledge and modelization coming to the other natural sciences (Physical Geography, Edaphology, Bioclimatology, etc.), the Biogeography tries to establish a global hierachical typology of the Biosphere. Its typological units in hierarchic decreasing order are: kingdom, region, province, sector, district and tesela.

The biogeographic taxonomy proposed and used by us in this work could be compared, and is related to the phyto-chorologic proposals of Drude (1897), Engler & Gilg (1919), Meusel, Jäger & Weinert (1965) Good (1974), and Takhtajan (1986). The last mentioned proposal could be called "corionomic", because it is mainly based in the area superposition and in the richness of several vascular plant taxa, particularly families and genus present in some geographic territories ("corias" or "phyto-corias").

Our proposal has more conceptual and territorial similarities with the hybrid "floristic-vegetation" approach proposed by Brockmann-Jerosch & Rübel (1912), with the biostructural approach of Udvardy (1975) and, above all, with the genuine phytosociological related approach of Schmithüsen (1968, 1976). Anyhow, we think it useful to combine the concepts and nomenclature within all the valid approaches (vg. floristic region should be similar to vegetation region, vegetation circle or plant communities circle). We must do not forget that the Biogeography as bioecological-geographic science focuses in the sectorization and systematization of the present Earth biodiversity and habitats .

In our present proposal we use several criteria for the characterization and delimitation of the biogeographic units: floristic, structural, bioclimatic, zoological, eco-functional and edaphic. With this eclectic but not ambiguous position sometimes we have needed sometimes to propose some new biogeographic great units not suggested before. Anyway, we have tried, in addition to maintaining as much as possible the traditional names and hierarchies to obtain that all the boundaries between units could be objective and enough justified, using vegetation series and geoseries as main delimitatating criteria.

Worldwide we recognize in total four kingdoms with seven subkingdoms and forty for regions. The kingdoms and subkingdoms are: I. Holarctic (13 regions), II. Paleotropical: IIa. African (7 regions), IIb. Indo-Malayan (5 regions), IIc. Polynesian (3 regions), III. Neotropical-Austroamerican: IIIa. Neotropical (9 regions), IIIb. Austroamerican (3 regions), IV. New Zealandian-Australian: IVa. New Zealandian (1 region), IVb. Australian (3 regions). By continents the number of regions are Eurasia: 15 regions, North America: 9 regions, South America: 9 regions, Africa: 9 regions, Australia and Polynesia: 7 regions (figures 5 and 6).  

I. Holarctic  

  1. Circumarctic
  2. Euro-Siberian
  3. Eastern Siberian
  4. Sino-Japanese
  5. Mediterranean
  6. Iranian-Turanian
  7. Tibet-Himalayan
  8. Saharian-Arabian
  9. North American Boreal
  10. North American Atlantic
  11. Rocky Mountain
  12. Californian
  13. Great Basin

II. Paleotropical


  1. Guinean-Congolian
  2. Sahelian-Sudanian
  3. Somalian-Ethiopian
  4. Namibian-Zambezian
  5. Cape
  6. South-Eastern African
  7. Malgachian

IIb. Indo-Malayan

  1. Omanian-Sindian
  2. Hindustanian
  3. Indochinean
  4. Indonesian-Philippine
  5. Fijian-Papuan
IIc. Polynesian
  1. New Caledonian
  2. Polynesian
  3. Hawaiian

III. Neotropical-Austroamerican

IIIa. Neotropical

  1. Mexican Xerophytic
  2. Madrean
  3. Caribbean-Mesoamerican
  4. Colombian-Venezuelan
  5. Amazonian
  6. Brazilian-Paranian
  7. Chaco
  8. Andean
  9. Desertic Pacific

IIIb. Austroamerican

  1. Pampean
  2. Middle Chilean-Patagonian
  3. Valdivian-Magellanic

IV. New zealandian-Australian

IVa. New Zealandian

  1. New Zealandian

IVb. Australian

  1. Tropical Australian
  2. Temperate Australian
  3. Mediterranean Australian

Figure 5.    Biogeographic kingdoms, subkingdoms and regions of the geobiosphere. We recognize four kingdoms, seven subkingdoms and forty four regions.

We recognize as major biogeographic units of the Earth within the geobiosphere four kingdoms, seven subkingdoms and fourty four biogeographic regions (Fig. 5). Their distribution in the continents and relationships with the macrobioclimates is given in Fig. 6.

Macroclimate North America South America
Tropical Mexican Xerophytic
Desertic Pacific
Mediterranean Californian
Great Basin
Rocky Mountain
Middle Chilean-Patagonian
Temperate North American Atlantic
Rocky Mountain
Boreal North American Boreal
Rocky Mountain
Polar Circumarctic Valdivian-Magellanic

Macroclimate. Eurasia Africa Australia & Polynesia
Tropical Sahelian-Sudanian
South-Eastern African
New Caledonian
Tropical Australian
Mediterranean Mediterranean
Temperate Mediterranean
Cape Temperate Australian
New Zealandian
Boreal Euro-Siberian Eastern Siberian - New Zealandian
Polar Circumarctic - -

Figure 6. Correspondence among the geobiosphere biogeographic regions, the continents and the macrobioclimates in the World. As a whole we recognize 44 regions: nine in North America; nine in South America; fifteen in Eurasia; nine in Africa and seven in Australia and Polynesia.


For America we recognize two kingdoms, three subkingdoms, four superregions, eighteen regions and eighty one provinces (Fig. 7). [Dr. G. Navarro (South America), Dr. J. Giménez de Azcárate and Dr. A. Penas (Meso-America), Dr. M. Costa and Dr. D. Sánchez-Mata (North America) have collaborated in the biogeographic synopsis of both american continents].

A. Holarctic Kingdom  
1. Circumarctic Region
1.1. North American Arctic Province  
2. North American Boreal Region
2.1. Canadian Boreal Province
2.2. Mackenzie-Yukonian Province  
3. North American Atlantic Region
3.1. Central-Eastern North American Province
3.2. Prairies Province
3.3. Coastal Plains Province  
4. Rocky Mountain Region
4a. North-Western Pacific Subregion
4.1. Boreal Pacific Province
4.2. Cascade Province
4b. Rocky Mountain Subregion
4.3. Northern Rocky Mountain Province
4.4. Central-Eastern Rocky Mountain Province  
5. Californian Region
5.1. Northern Californian Province
5.2. Southern Californian Province  
6. Great Basin Region
6.1. Columbian Plateau Province
6.2. Intermountain Province
6.3. Colorado Plateau Province
6.4. Mohave Province
6.5. Neomexican-Arizonian Middlands Province  
B. Neotropical-Austroamerican Kingdom  
Ba. Neotropical Subkingdom  
Baa. Mexican Superregion  
7. Mexican Xerophytic Region
7.1. Baja California Province
7.2. Sonoran Province
7.3. Sinaloan Province
7.4. Chihuahuan Province
7.5. Tamaulipan Province  
8. Madrean Region
8.1. Western Madrean Province
8.2. Neovolcanic-Eastern Madrean Province
8.3. Balsas River and Southern Madrean Province  
Bab. Caribbean-Amazonian Superregion  
9. Caribbean-Mesoamerican Region
9.1. Floridan Province
9.2. Cuba Province
9.3. Antillean Province
9.4. Veracruzan-Yucatanian Province
9.5. Chiapan-Honduran Province
9.6. Panama and Costa Rica Province
9.7. Guajiran Province  
10. Colombian-Venezuelan Region
10.1. Ecuatorian-Colombian Coastal Province
10.2. Magdalenan River Province  
10.3. Galapagos Islands Province 
 10.4. Venezuelan Highland Province
10.5. Llanos Province
10.6. Tepuis Province 
11. Amazonian Region
11.1. Loreto Province
11.2. Negro River and High Orinoco Province
11.3. Roraima and Lower Amazonas Province
11.4. Guiana Province
11.5. Amazonas Delta Province
11.6. Acre and Madre de Dios Province
11.7. Madeira and Tapajoz Province  
Bac. Chaco-Brazilian Superregion  
12. Brazilian-Paranean Region
12.1. Cerrado Province
12.2. Tocantins Province
12.3. Beni Province
12.4. Pantanal Province
12.5. Atlantic Brazilian Province
12.6. Paranean Province
12.7. Caatinga Province  
13. Chaco Region
13.1. Boreal Chaco Province
13.2. Austral Chaco Province
13.3. Andean Chaco Province  
Bad. Andean Superregion  
14. Andean Region
14.1. Paramo Province
14.2. Peruvian and Bolivian Yunga Province
14.3. Peruvian Puna Province
14.4. Bolivian Interandean Province
14.5. Andean Altiplano Province  
15. Desertic Pacific Region
15.1. Peruvian Desert Province
15.2. Atacama Desert Province  
Bb. Austroamerican Subkingdom  
16. Pampean Region
16.1. Rainy Pampean Province
16.2. Xeric Pampean Province  
17. Middle Chile-Patagonian Region
17.1. Middle Chile Desert Province
17.2. Central Chile Province
17.3. Mediterranean Andean Province
17.4. Monte Province
17.5. Boreal Patagonia Province
17.6. Austral Patagonia Province  
18. Valdivian-Magellanic Region
18.1. Valdivian Province
18.2. Austral Andean-Magellanic Province
18.3. Tierra de Fuego Province
18.4. Juan Fernandez Islands Province
18.5. Antarctic Province

Figure 7.    Biogeographic synopsis of America at regional and provincial level (with collaboration of Drs. D. Sánchez-Mata and M. Costa for United States and Canada, Drs. J. Giménez de Azcárate and A. Penas for Mexico, and Dr. G. Navarro for South America). In total we recognize in America: 2 kingdoms, 2 subkingdoms, 3 superregions, 18 regions and 73 provinces.


The biogeographic typology synthesis of the regions, provinces, sectors and sometimes subsectors of North America (Mexico included, with the collaboration of Dr. J. Giménez de Azcárate and Dr. A. Penas) is presented below, based chiefly in a previous synopsis (Rivas-Martínez, 1997: 13). We recognize in North America (North of Panama) 2 kingdoms, 2 subkingdoms, 2 superregions, 9 regions, 33 provinces, 87 sectors and 78 subsectors.

A. Holarctic Kingdom
1. Circumarctic Region
1.1. North American Arctic Province
1.1a. North American Continental Arctic Sector
1.1b. Islands Arctic Sector
1.1c. Greenland Sector
2. North American Boreal Region
2.1. Canadian Boreal Province
2.1a. Newfoundlandian Sector
2.1b. Eastern Canadian Boreal Sector
2.1ba. Boreal Laurentian Subsector
2.1bb. Labrador Basin Subsector
2.1bc. Hudson Bay Basin Subsector
2.1c. Western Canadian Boreal Sector
2.1ca. Western Canadian Boreal Subhumid Subsector
2.1cb. Western Canadian Boreal Xeric Subsector
2.2. Yukonian-Alaskan Province
2.2a. Cassiar and Mackenzie Mountains Sector
2.2aa. Cassiar Mountains Subsector
2.2ab. Mackenzie Mountains Subsector
2.2ac. Great Bear Lake Subsector
2.2b. Continental Alaskan Sector
2.2ba. Boreal Subcontinental Alaskan Subsector
2.2bb. Boreal Eucontinental Alaskan Subsector
2.2bc. Boreal Xeric Alaskan Subsector
3. North American Atlantic Region
3.1. Appalachian Province
3.1a. Appalachian Sector
3.1aa. North Appalachian Subsector
3.1ab. Temperate Laurentian Subsector
3.1ac. Nova Scotia Subsector
3.1b. South Appalachian Sector
3.1ba. Allegheny Mountains Subsector
3.1bb. Smoky Mountains Subsector
3.2. Great Lakes and Central Lowlands Province
3.2a. Great Lakes Sector
3.2aa. Western Hemiboreal Great Lakes Subsector
3.2ab. Southwestern Great Lakes Subsector
3.2ac. Eastern Great Lakes Subsector
3.2b. Central Lowlands Sector
3.2ba. Eastern Central Lowlands Subsector
3.2bb. Western Central Lowlands Subsector
3.2bc. Ozark Plateaux Subsector
3.3. Prairies Province
3.3a. Canadian Prairies Sector
3.3b. Central Prairies Sector
3.3ba. Northern Central Prairies Subsector
3.3bb. Southern Central Prairies Subsector
3.4. Coastal Plains Province
3.4a. Gulf Coastal Plains Sector
3.4aa. Western Gulf Coastal Plains Subsector
3.4ab. Mississippi River and Delta Subsector
3.4ac. Eastern Gulf Coastal Plains Subsector
3.4b. Atlantic Coastal Plains Sector
3.4ba. South Atlantic Coastal Plains Subsector
3.4bb. South New England Coastal Subsector
3.5. Texas Prairies Province
3.5a. Central Texas Prairies Sector
3.5b. Llano Estacado Sector
4. Rocky Mountain Region
4a. North-Western Pacific Subregion
4.1. Boreal Oceanic Alaskan Province
4.1a. Boreal Oceanic Western Alaskan Sector
4.1aa. Kenai Peninsula Subsector
4.1ab. Kodiak Island Subsector
4.1b. Boreal Oceanic Eastern Alaskan Sector
4.1ba. Glacier Coast Subsector
4.1bb. Haines-Juneau Subsector
4.1c. Aleutian and Alaska Peninsula Sector
4.1ca. Aleutian Islands Subsector
4.1cb. Alaska Peninsula Subsector
4.2. Cascade Province
4.2a. Oregonian-Vancouverian Coastal Sector
4.2aa. Oregonian Coastal Subsector
4.2ab. Olympic Mountains Subsector
4.2ac. Vancouverian Subsector
4.2b. Cascade Ranges Sector
4.2ba. Oregonian Cascade Subsector
4.2bb. Washingtonian Cascade Subsector
4.2c. Canadian Coastal Mountains Sector
4.2ca. South Canadian Coastal Mountains Subsector
4.2cb. North Canadian Coastal Mountains Subsector
4.2cc. Queen Charlotte and Prince of Wales Islands Subsector
4.2d. Columbia Mountains Sector
4.2da. Columbia Mountains Subsector
4.2db. Bitterroot Range Subsector
4b. Rocky Mountain Subregion
4.3. Northern Rocky Mountain Province
4.3a. Canadian Rockies Sector
4.3aa. Canadian Rockies Subsector
4.3ab. Omineca Mountains Subsector
4.3b. Fraser Interior Plateau Sector
4.3ba. Nechako-Fraser Plateau Subsector
4.3bb. Thompson Plateau Subsector
4.3c. Flathead and Salmon Mountains Sector
4.3ca. Salmon River Mountains Subsector
4.3cb. Flathead and Upper Kootenay River Subsector
4.4. Central-Eastern Rocky Mountain Province
4.4a. High Missouri-Yellowstone Sector
4.4aa. High Missouri Subsector
4.4ab. Teton and Yellowstone Subsector
4.4b. Utah Rockies Sector
4.4c. Colorado Rockies Sector
4.4ca. Colorado-Wyoming Rockies Subsector
4.4cb. Colorado-New Mexico Rockies Subsector
4.4d. High Plains Rockies Sector
4.4da. Central Montana and Bighorn Mountains Subsector
4.4db. Flat High Plains Subsector
5. Californian Region
5.1. Northern Californian Province
5.1a. Klamath Sector
5.1aa. Klamath Subsector
5.1ab. Ciscascade Subsector
5.1b. Sierra Nevada Sector
5.1ba. Northern Sierra Nevada Subsector
5.1bb. Southern Sierra Nevada Subsector
5.1bc. Transcascade Subsector
5.1c. Northern Californian Coastal Sector
5.1ca. Mendocino Subsector
5.1cb. San Francisco and Monterrey Subsector
5.1d. Great Valley Sector
5.1da. Sacramento Valley Subsector
5.1db. San Joaquin Valley Subsector
5.1dc. Central Coastal Ranges Subsector
5.2. Southern Californian Province
5.2a. Southern Californian Ranges Sector
5.2aa. Transverse Ranges Subsector
5.2ab. Northern Baja California Ranges Subsector
5.2b. Southern Coastal and Channel Islands Sector
5.2ba. Southern Coastal Subsector
5.2bb. Channel Islands Subsector
6. Great Basin Region
6.1. Columbian Plateau Province
6.1a. Middle Columbian Drainage Basin Sector
6.1b. Harney Basin Sector
6.2. Intermountain Province
6.2a. Upper Nevada Basin Sector
6.2b. Great Salt Lake Desert Sector
6.2c. Snake River Plain Sector
6.3. Colorado Plateau Province
6.3a. Wyoming Basin Sector
6.3b. Green River and Colorado Canyons Sector
6.3c. Navajo and San Juan Basin Sector
6.4. Mohave Province
6.4a. Mohave Sector
6.4b. Death Valley Sector
6.4c. Hualapaian Sector
6.5. Neomexican-Arizonian Middlands Province
6.5a. Central Arizona Mountains Sector
6.5aa. Mogollon Rim Mountains Subsector
6.5ab. Upper Gila River Mountains Subsector
6.5b. Central New Mexico Mountains Sector
B. Neotropical-Austroamerican Kingdom
Ba. Neotropical Subkingdom
Baa. Mexican Superregion
7. Mexican Xerophytic Region
7.1. Baja California Province
7.1a. Vizcaino Sector
7.1b. Magdalena Sector
7.1c. San Lucas Sector
7.1d. Eastern Baja California Coastal Sector
7.2. Sonoran Province
7.2a. Warm Californian Desert Sector
7.2b. Arizonian Sonoran Sector
7.2c. Mexican Sonoran Sector
7.3. Sinaloan Province
7.3a. Sinaloan Desertic Sector
7.3b. Sinaloan Xeric Sector
7.4. Chihuahuan Province
7.4a. Chihuahuan Sector
7.4b. Coahuilan Sector
7.4c. San Luis Potosi Sector
7.5. Tamaulipan Province
7.5a. Tamaulipan Sector
7.5b. Trans-Pecos Sector
8. Madrean Region
8.1. Western Madrean Province
8.1a. Septentrional Western Madrean Sector
8.1b. Meridional Western Madrean Sector
8.2. Neovolcanic-Eastern Madrean Province
8.2a. Neovolcanic Sector
8.2b. Eastern Madrean Sector
8.3. Balsas River and Southern Madrean Province
8.3a. Balsas River Sector
8.3b. Southern Madrean Sector
Bab. Caribbean-Amazonian Superregion
9. Caribbean-Mesoamerican Region
9.1. Floridan Province
9.1a. Keys and Everglades Sector
9.1b. Floridan Plains Sector
9.1c. Bahama Islands Sector
9.2. Cuba Province
9.2a. Eastern Cuba Sector
9.2b. Central Cuba Sector
9.2c. Western Cuba Sector
9.3. Antilles Province
9.3a. Jamaica Sector
9.3b. Hispaniola Sector
9.3c. Puerto Rico Sector
9.3d. Lesser Antilles Sector
9.4. Veracruzan-Yucatanian Province
9.4a. Veracruzan Sector
9.4b. Yucatanian Sector
9.5. Chiapas-Honduras Province
9.5a. Chiapas Sector
9.5aa. Chiapas Subsector
9.5ab. Guatemala Subsector
9.5ac. Tehuantepec Subsector
9.5b. Honduras Sector
9.5ba. Honduras Subsector
9.5bb. Nicaragua Subsector
9.6. Panama and Costa Rica Province
9.6a. Panama Sector
9.6b. Costa Rica Sector


Figure 8. Distribution of biogeographic provinces and regions of North America (Meso-America included). 1. Circumarctic Region: 1.1. North American Arctic Province; 2. North American Boreal Region, 2.1. Canadian Boreal Province, 2.2. Yukonian-Alaskan Province; 3. North American Atlantic Region: 3.1. Appalachian Province, 3.2. Great Lakes and Central Lowlands Province, 3.3. Prairies Province, 3.4. Coastal Plains Province, 3.5. Texas Prairies Province; 4. Rocky Mountain Region: 4.1. Boreal Oceanic Province, 4.2. Cascade Province, 4.3. Northern Rocky Mountain Province, 4.4. Central-Eastern Rocky Mountain Province; 5. Californian Region: 5.1. Northern Californian Province, 5.2. Southern Californian Province; 6. Great Basin Region: 6.1. Columbia Plateau Province, 6.2. Intermountain Province, 6.3. Colorado Plateau Province, 6.4. Mohave Province, 6.5. Neomexican-Arizonian Middlands Province; 7. Mexican Xerophytic Region: 7.1. Baja California Province, 7.2. Sonoran Province, 7.3. Sinaloan Province, 7.4. Chihuahuan Province, 7.5. Taumaulipan Province; 8. Madrean Region: 8.1. Western Madrean Province, 8.2. Neovolcanic-Eastern Madrean Province, 8.3. Balsas River and Southern Madrean Province; 9. Caribbean-Mesoamerican Region: 9.1. Floridan Province, 9.2. Cuba Province, 9.3. Antilles Province, 9.4. Veracruzan-Yukatanian Province, 9.5. Chiapas-Honduras Province, 9.6. Panama and Costa Rica Province [Synthesis by S. Rivas-Martínez, with the collaboration of M. Costa, J. Giménez de Azcárate, A. Penas and D. Sánchez-Mata].