Quantum biogeography and the uncertainty associated with the distribution of species

The analysis of species occurrence records as quantum particles helps understand and predict biogeographical patterns.

Species’ geographical distributions are not static: at a larger or smaller scale, at a quicker or slower pace, individuals are in constant movement, and maps cannot categorically illustrate all of the places where a species does or does not occur.

An article published in the prestigious journal Systematic Biology, led by Professor Raimundo Real of the Department of Animal Biology of the University of Málaga, proposes that this intrinsic uncertainty allows establishing an analogy between the distribution of species and that of quantum particles, whose exact locations are only known at the moments when they are observed, and whose true distribution is represented by a wavefunction that summarizes the probability of their location in space.

Assuming and incorporating this uncertainty, which is inherent to species distributions, into a favorability function analogous to the wavefunction, implies a paradigm change that may lead to significant improvements in macroecology and biogeography. By providing a worked example with practical applications, the authors show that applying concepts and methods of quantum physics may improve the understanding and prediction of species distributions, and thus contribute to a deeper knowledge and better management and conservation of biodiversity.


Link to this news in the UMA website: https://www.uma.es/sala-de-prensa/noticias/fisica-cuantica-para-predecir-la-distribucion-geografica-de-las-especies/

Link to the whole article in Systematic Biology: https://academic.oup.com/sysbio/article/66/3/453/2670095

Repercusion in the press: La Vanguardia