Range expansion

For the same species living closely together, see Colony (biology).

Colonisation or colonization is the process in biology by which a species spreads into new areas, regions, and continents. It is sometimes also referred to as immigration, but colonisation often refers to successful immigration with integration to a community, having resisted initial local extinction.

One classic model in biogeography posits that species must continue to colonize new areas through its life cycle (called a taxon cycle) in order to achieve longevity.[1] Accordingly, colonisation and extinction are key components of island biogeography, a theory that has many applications in ecology, such as analysis of metapopulations.


The term can be used to describe colonisation on:
  • biofilm scales: the formation of communities of microorganisms on surfaces.
  • small scales: colonising new sites, perhaps as a result of environmental change.
  • large scales: where a species expands its range to encompass new areas. This can be via a series of small encroachments or by long-distance dispersal. The term range expansion is often used.


The term is generally only used to refer to the spread into new areas by natural means, as opposed to introduction or translocation by human agency, potentially becoming invasive species or introduced species.

Species colonisation events

Some large-scale notable colonisation events in the 20th Century are:




See also


External links

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