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By David Earl Brown, Frank Reichenbacher, Susan E. Franson

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Tansley (1923) in Great Britain. Most of these ecologists took "a top-down" or landscape physiognomy approach that classified plant communities on the basis of dominance-types (Whittaker 1978). Emphasizing structural dominants as "indicator species," Clements (1920) was especially influential in America, and his concept of the plant community as a holistic organism, which, with the cessation of disruptive influences, would progress toward a self-sustaining climax controlled by climate and edaphic (soil) conditions, was widely accepted.

Later, another American zoologist, Theodore Gill (1885), compared Wallace's and Allen's systems. While generally favoring the former, Gill had a number of pertinent criticisms of both approaches. In a well-considered but now largely forgotten paper, Gill followed his predecessors' approach in dividing the world's continental land masses into large "faunal realms" on the basis of animal orders and families. As had Wallace and Allen, he used genera to delineate a hierarchy of finer "regions" and other subdivisions.

Then, in the early 1800s, Alexander von Humboldt and his botanist accomplice Aime Bonpland wrote a series of essays laying the theoretical foundation for understanding the distribution of plants. In such works as their Geography of Plants (Humboldt and Bonpland 1807) and Humboldt's The Geographic Distribution of Plants (1817), they described the effects of temperature on corresponding latitudinal and altitudinal belts of vegetation in the South American Andes. " A generation later, the great naturalist Louis Agassiz (1854) divided the world into eight continental land masses or "realms" based on their faunal constituents and the human races living there.

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