Niche conservatism: Integrating evolution, ecology, and conservation biology

John J. Wiens, Catherine H. Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1847 Scopus citations


Niche conservatism is the tendency of species to retain ancestral ecological characteristics. In the recent literature, a debate has emerged as to whether niches are conserved. We suggest that simply testing whether niches are conserved is not by itself particularly helpful or interesting and that a more useful focus is on the patterns that niche conservatism may (or may not) create. We focus specifically on how niche conservatism in climatic tolerances may limit geographic range expansion and how this one type of niche conservatism may be important in (a) allopatric speciation, (b) historical biogeography, (c) patterns of species richness, (d) community structure, (e) the spread of invasive, human-introduced species, (f) responses of species to global climate change, and (g) human history, from 13,000 years ago to the present. We describe how these effects of niche conservatism can be examined with new tools for ecological niche modeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-539
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
StatePublished - 2005


  • Biogeography
  • Climate
  • Invasive species
  • Speciation
  • Species richness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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