Ecological land classification is defined as being a cartographical delineation of distinct ecological areas, identified by their geology, topography, soils, vegetation, climate conditions, living species, water resources, as well as anthropic factors. These factors are known to control or influence biotic composition and ecological processes. As a consequence, they provide a useful approximation of ecosystem potentials.

Many different lists have been proposed over time. They were sometimes proposed for conservation efforts. Part of the list proposed below is inspired by Miklos Udvardy classification of the Biographical Provinces in the World which was prepared by Unesco's Man and the Biosphere program, published in 1975 and updated in 1982.

Important applications of this information is in planning for future land uses and land conservation decisions.

This classification can be applied at different scales, with a holistic approach. Classical levels are

A crucial concept of land classification, is that each of the areas defined either remains the same over a certain period of time or shows a slow gradual change, without large, sudden changes. This means it is a system in a kind of equilibrium. It postulates an area is an open system with a certain self-regulation (homeostasis or homeorhesis). Indeed management of land usually aims at a steady state (persistent or at least relatively constant), which means either pure conservation (prevention of damage) or at least sustainability (no deterioration through use).

See also

Biogeographical Realms (Earth ecozone)
Global 200 (200 ecoregions defined by WWF as the most critical regions for conservation)