Anthromes   The Global Ecological Patterns Created by Humans


Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What are Anthromes? (Anthropogenic Biomes, Human Biomes)
Q: What are Biomes?

Q: Are biomes obsolete?

Q: What is the difference between Anthromes versions 1 and 2, and why distinguish between them?
Q: What are Seminatural anthromes?
Q: What are Anthrome "Levels"?
Q: What are "Human Systems"?
Q: Are there marine and aquatic anthromes?


Q: What are Anthromes? (Anthropogenic Biomes, Human Biomes)
A: Anthromes, also known as Anthropogenic Biomes, or Human Biomes, are the globally significant ecological patterns created by sustained interactions between humans and ecosystems, including urban, village, cropland, rangeland and seminatural anthromes.  Just as the classic biomes are formed by global patterns of climate, anthromes are formed by global patterns in human populations and their use of land over the long-term.  The term was originated by Erle Ellis and Navin Ramankutty in 2007 in their paper in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment as a more comprehensive way to integrate humans into global ecology. Anthropogenic Biomes entry at Encyclopedia of Earth.
Q: What are Biomes?
A: Biomes are fundamental units of biology and ecology, representing globally significant patterns of life across the biosphere.  In the classic definition of biomes, these are tropical rainforests, grasslands, deserts and other ecosystems defined by global patterns in climate.  Biomes entry at Encyclopedia of Earth.
Q: Are biomes obsolete?
A: No. Even though humans have transformed most of the terrestrial biosphere into anthromes, biomes remain useful both as a basic concept in biology and ecology (globally-significant large-scale units of ecosystem form and function- anthromes are merely "anthropogenic biomes") and because the classic biomes defined by climate are still useful global units for ecology, differentiating profound global variations in ecosystem form and function, including biodiversity and primary productivity.
Q: What is the difference between Anthromes versions 1 and 2, and why distinguish between them?
A: Anthromes version 1 represents the first classification of globally significant ecological patterns created by humans.  Anthromes 1 classification used statistical methods (two-step cluster analysis) to identify and map anthromes using global data for human population density, land use and land cover, resulting in an empirical classification consisting of 21 anthrome classes, three of them wildAnthromes version 2 is based on the patterns identified in version 1, but simplified to 19 anthrome classes (2 of them wild) and classifies anthromes based on human population density and land use data using standard rules that allow consistent classification across time periods.  While the identity of Anthromes v1 classes are more strongly linked to empirical analysis of global data, making them more objective, their identification cannot be made consistent across datasets (their identities are optimized to the data itself), so Anthromes v2 classification (or another similar method) is required to facilitate analysis of historical changes in the biosphere. 
Q: What are Seminatural anthromes?
A: Seminatural anthromes are created when humans use land at relatively low levels (<20% of land used for crops, pasture or urban).  This Anthrome level was added in Anthromes version 2, building on the Forested anthrome level identifed in Anthromes version 1, which had relatively low levels of use, but adding lightly used anthromes without forest cover as well (Seminatural treeless and barren lands).
Q: What are Anthrome "Levels"?
A: Anthrome Levels ("groups" in Anthromes v1) are broad categories comprising multiple anthrome classes.  For example, Villages are an anthrome level, comprised of rice villages, rainfed villages, irrigated villages, and so forth.
Q: What are "Human Systems"?
A: Human systems emerge from human interactions. As individuals, and even as populations, humans are just another species. Human systems, on the other hand, represent the integrated effects of humans interacting with each other at scales capable of forcing changes in the atmosphere, lithosphere, biosphere and other earth systems. Human systems have emerged as new primary earth systems, both by dramatically altering preexisting natural processes and more importantly, by introducing a host of new earth system-processes entirely novel to the earth system.
Q: Are there marine and aquatic anthromes?
A: While it might be possible to classify and map human influences on marine and other aquatic ecosystems, in the case of marine ecosystems, they are too dynamic, changing with currents and seasons, to map as static biomes- the ideal classification and mapping of marine biomes is dynamic, changing over time- and recently this has been accomplished using remote sensing of the oceans.