The biogeographic variation of life has predominantly been studied using taxonomy, but this focus is changing. There is a resurging interest in understanding patterns in the distribution not only of taxa but also of the traits those taxa possess. Patterns of trait variation shed light on fundamental questions in biology, including why organisms live where they do and how they will respond to environmental change. Technological advances such as environmental genomics place microbial ecology in a unique position to move trait-based biogeography forward. We anticipate that as trait-based biogeography continues to evolve, micro- and macroorganisms will be studied in concert, establishing a science that is informed by and relevant to all domains of life.
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