Phytogeography (Geobotany): Functions and Importance - science - 2023



The phytogeography or geobotany It is a discipline that is dedicated to studying the plant environment and its relationship with the habitat. It is a broad branch of study, so it also covers the origin of plants in a given place and their distribution on the planet.

Phytogeography takes into account the historical, climatic and even soil-related causes, which make them exist, develop and adapt to a specific context. It is considered a branch of biogeography, a discipline that is responsible for the study of both plant and animal distribution.

The importance of biogeography lies, among other things, in that it was the context in which Charles Darwin developed his theory on the evolution of beings. Darwin was based on the phytogeographic and zoogeographic observations (branch of biogeography that studies the distribution of animals) of the time.

Origin of the term

The term "geobotany" first emerged in 1856 by the German botanist August Grisebach, who characterized it as an element based purely on the physiognomy of plants.

From this definition, other conceptualizations emerged that were approaching what is now known as geobotany.

Eduard Rübel, vegetation expert; Pius Font i Quer, Catalan botanist; and Huguet del Villar, Spanish naturalist and geographer; were some of the scholars whose contributions complemented the definition of geobotany.

They contributed to perceive it as the study of the characteristics and distribution of plant organisms in the context of the planet, and their relationships with the biosphere.

Since phytogeography also takes into account the origin of plant species, the study includes fossil plants, which allow us to elucidate about the antecedents of these organisms.

Research methods used

The research methods of geobotany are characterized by being:


They present descriptive characteristics because they are based on the characterization of plants and their environments.


They are interpretive because they conclude behavior patterns and characteristics of the elements based on the observation made, both of individuals and of communities.


They are considered empirical, since they allow experimentation with beings to determine the relationships they actually have with each other and with their natural context.


They are investigative because they take into account the origin of species through the study of prehistoric elements.

Functions of phytogeography or geobotany

Among the most relevant functions of phytogeography are the identification, as specific as possible, of the characteristics of the plant cover.

The aim is that, from this classification, it is possible to know the current state and the actions that must be carried out to ensure conservation and optimal use.

Another important function of geobotany is that it allows the identification of behavior patterns, which facilitates the anticipation of behaviors in the bioclimatic field (that is, the relationship between beings and the climate that affects them).

Distribution factors

As has been seen, phytogeography has to do with the study of the distribution of plant organisms, and this distribution is carried out taking into account different elements. The most relevant ones will be characterized below:


The climate strongly influences the distribution of plants. There are organisms whose characteristics make them more efficient at high or low temperatures. Conditions related to rain, snowfall or wind also influence.


This factor has to do with the physical characteristics of the environment, the existence of mountains, seas, rivers, deserts and other formations that define the type of plant that can exist in a particular area.


The edaphic factors are linked to the characteristics of the soil. The soil has different characteristics of chemical composition and texture, which means that not all species adapt to all types of soil.

Of mutualism

In addition to factors of nature, aspects that refer to other species also influence the distribution.

Mutualism refers to the dependency relationship that may exist between different organisms to guarantee their subsistence; In these relationships, one organism cannot develop properly without the participation of the other.


The relationship between species can be collaborative or competitive depending on the amount of resources that exist in the environment. Among these elements are water, soil, light, food, among others.


Among human factors, the variations to the natural context generated by the implantation of foreign species in determined sites strongly influence.

This has generated a structural change in the dynamics of certain places and, in many cases, has created a new distribution of plant organisms.

Importance of phytography

Phytogeography is a science of vital importance for all organisms that inhabit the planet. One of the reasons is that it makes it possible to identify the most effective ways of using the surface, which favors practices such as agronomy.

The study of the characteristics of the communities of plant organisms also helps to have a clear idea about the climate and soil conditions of a specific place and, based on these notions, make decisions related to the choice of crops and agricultural activities.

It also makes it possible to anticipate climatic scenarios and has a great influence on the meteorological field, since geobotany is practically a photograph of the climate of a particular region.

Phytogeography also contributes to afforestation and conservation actions of a specific site, because it allows us to recognize what are the characteristics of the area in question, what are its needs and what elements require greater care.

Another importance of the study of geobotany is that it allows the identification of mineral reserves in the soil, because there are many species of plants that, as part of their own processes, reserve some minerals. These reserves can be useful, for example, in the pharmaceutical field.


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