Biodiversity hotspot

Last updated

A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region with significant levels of biodiversity that is threatened with humans. [1] [2]

Biogeography The study of the distribution of species and ecosystems in geographic space and through geological time

Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species and ecosystems in geographic space and through geological time. Organisms and biological communities often vary in a regular fashion along geographic gradients of latitude, elevation, isolation and habitat area. Phytogeography is the branch of biogeography that studies the distribution of plants. Zoogeography is the branch that studies distribution of animals.

Biodiversity Variety and variabiity of life forms

Biodiversity refers to the variety and variability of life on Earth. Biodiversity typically measures variation at the genetic, species, and ecosystem level. Terrestrial biodiversity is usually greater near the equator, which is the result of the warm climate and high primary productivity. Biodiversity is not distributed evenly on Earth, and is richest in the tropics. These tropical forest ecosystems cover less than 10 percent of earth's surface, and contain about 90 percent of the world's species. Marine biodiversity is usually highest along coasts in the Western Pacific, where sea surface temperature is highest, and in the mid-latitudinal band in all oceans. There are latitudinal gradients in species diversity. Biodiversity generally tends to cluster in hotspots, and has been increasing through time, but will be likely to slow in the future.


Norman Myers wrote about the concept in two articles in “The Environmentalist” (1988), [3] and 1990 [4] revised after thorough analysis by Myers and others “Hotspots: Earth’s Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Terrestrial Ecoregions” [5] and a paper published in the journal Nature. [6]

Norman Myers is a British environmentalist specialising in biodiversity and also noted for his work on environmental refugees.

To qualify as a biodiversity hotspot on Myers 2000 edition of the hotspot-map, a region must meet two strict criteria: it must contain at least 0.5% or 1,500 species of vascular plants as endemics, and it has to have lost at least 70% of its primary vegetation. [6] Around the world, 36 areas qualify under this definition. [7] These sites support nearly 60% of the world's plant, bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species, with a very high share of those species as endemics. Some of these hotspots support up to 15,000 endemic plant species and some have lost up to 95% of their natural habitat. [7]

Vascular plant subkingdom of plants

Vascular plants, also known as tracheophytes, form a large group of plants that are defined as those land plants that have lignified tissues for conducting water and minerals throughout the plant. They also have a specialized non-lignified tissue to conduct products of photosynthesis. Vascular plants include the clubmosses, horsetails, ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms. Scientific names for the group include Tracheophyta, Tracheobionta and Equisetopsida sensu lato. The term higher plants should be avoided as a synonym for vascular plants as it is a remnant of the abandoned concept of the great chain of being.

Endemism ecological state of being unique to a defined geographic location or habitat

Endemism is the ecological state of a species being unique to a defined geographic location, such as an island, nation, country or other defined zone, or habitat type; organisms that are indigenous to a place are not endemic to it if they are also found elsewhere. The extreme opposite of endemism is cosmopolitan distribution. An alternative term for a species that is endemic is precinctive, which applies to species that are restricted to a defined geographical area.

In biology, a species ( ) is the basic unit of classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexes or mating types can produce fertile offspring, typically by sexual reproduction. Other ways of defining species include their karyotype, DNA sequence, morphology, behaviour or ecological niche. In addition, paleontologists use the concept of the chronospecies since fossil reproduction cannot be examined. While these definitions may seem adequate, when looked at more closely they represent problematic species concepts. For example, the boundaries between closely related species become unclear with hybridisation, in a species complex of hundreds of similar microspecies, and in a ring species. Also, among organisms that reproduce only asexually, the concept of a reproductive species breaks down, and each clone is potentially a microspecies.

Biodiversity hotspots host their diverse ecosystems on just 2.3% of the planet's surface, [8] however, the area defined as hotspots covers a much larger proportion of the land. The original 25 hotspots covered 11.8% of the land surface area of the Earth. [9] Overall, the current hotspots cover more than 16% of the land surface area, but have lost around 85% of their habitat. [10] This loss of habitat explains why approximately 60% of the world's terrestrial life lives on only 2.3% of the land surface area.

Hotspot conservation initiatives

Only a small percentage of the total land area within biodiversity hotspots is now protected. Several international organizations are working in many ways to conserve biodiversity hotspots.

Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund global program

Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a global program that provides funding and technical assistance to non-governmental organizations and other private sector partners to protect critical ecosystems. They focus on biodiversity hotspots, the Earth's biologically richest yet most endangered areas. As of March 2013, CEPF has provided support to more than 1,800 civil society groups working locally to conserve hotspots in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. CEPF is a joint initiative of l'Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, European Union, Global Environment Facility, Government of Japan, MacArthur Foundation and World Bank.

World Wide Fund for Nature international non-governmental organization

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961, working in the field of the wilderness preservation, and the reduction of human impact on the environment. It was formerly named the World Wildlife Fund, which remains its official name in Canada and the United States.

The Global 200 is the list of ecoregions identified by WWF, the global conservation organization, as priorities for conservation. According to WWF, an ecoregion is defined as a "relatively large unit of land or water containing a characteristic set of natural communities that share a large majority of their species dynamics, and environmental conditions". So, for example, based on their levels of endemism, Madagascar gets multiple listings, ancient Lake Baikal gets one, and the North American Great Lakes get none.

By the influence of that the central government of india arrived a new authority named CAMPA(compensatorry afforestation fund management and planning authority) to control the destruction of forests and biological spots in india

Distribution by region

Biodiversity hotspots. Original proposal in green, and added regions in blue. Biodiversity Hotspots.svg
Biodiversity hotspots. Original proposal in green, and added regions in blue.

North and Central America

California Floristic Province

The California Floristic Province (CFP) is a floristic province with a Mediterranean-type climate located on the Pacific Coast of North America with a distinctive flora similar to other regions with a winter rainfall and summer drought climate like the Mediterranean Basin. This biodiversity hotspot is known for being the home of the Sierran giant sequoia tree and its close relative the coast redwood. In 1996, the Province was designated as a biodiversity hotspot allowing it to join ranks among 33 other areas in the world with a large number of endemic species. To be named a biodiversity hotspot, an area has to contain species and plant life that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The California Floristic Province is home to over 3,000 species of vascular plants, 60% of which are endemic to the province.

Madrean pine-oak woodlands

The Madrean pine-oak woodlands is an ecoregion of the Tropical and subtropical coniferous forests biome, located in North America. They are subtropical woodlands found in the mountains of Mexico and the southwestern United States.

Mesoamerica Cultural area in the Americas

Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America. It extends from approximately central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica, and within this region pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in 16th century European diseases, like small pox and measles, caused the deaths of upwards of 90% of the indigenous people. It is one of five areas in the world where ancient civilization arose independently, and the second in the Americas along with Norte Chico (Caral-Supe) in present-day Peru, in the northern coastal region.

The Caribbean

South America



Central Asia

South Asia

South East Asia and Asia-Pacific

East Asia

West Asia

Critiques of "Hotspots"

The high profile of the biodiversity hotspots approach has resulted in some criticism. Papers such as Kareiva & Marvier (2003) [17] [ citation needed ] have argued that the biodiversity hotspots:

A recent series of papers has pointed out that biodiversity hotspots (and many other priority region sets) do not address the concept of cost. [19] The purpose of biodiversity hotspots is not simply to identify regions that are of high biodiversity value, but to prioritize conservation spending. The regions identified include some in the developed world (e.g. the California Floristic Province), alongside others in the developing world (e.g. Madagascar). The cost of land is likely to vary between these regions by an order of magnitude or more, but the biodiversity hotspot designations do not consider the conservation importance of this difference. However, the available resources for conservation also tend to vary in this way.

See also

Related Research Articles

Ecoregion Ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than a bioregion

An ecoregion is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than a bioregion, which in turn is smaller than an ecozone. All three of these are either less or greater than an ecosystem. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural communities and species. The biodiversity of flora, fauna and ecosystems that characterise an ecoregion tends to be distinct from that of other ecoregions. In theory, biodiversity or conservation ecoregions are relatively large areas of land or water where the probability of encountering different species and communities at any given point remains relatively constant, within an acceptable range of variation.

This is an index of conservation topics. It is an alphabetical index of articles relating to conservation biology and conservation of the natural environment.

Western Ghats mountain range running parallel to the western coast of India

Western Ghats also known as Sahyadri is a mountain range that covers an area of 140,000 km² in a stretch of 1,600 km parallel to the western coast of the Indian peninsula, traverse the States of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight "hottest hot-spots" of biological diversity in the world. It is sometimes called the Great Escarpment of India. It is a biodiversity hotspot that contains a large proportion of the country's flora and fauna; many of which are only found in India and nowhere else in the world. According to UNESCO, Western Ghats are older than Himalayan mountains. It also influences Indian monsoon weather patterns by intercepting the rain-laden monsoon winds that sweep in from the south-west during late summer. The range runs north to south along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau, and separates the plateau from a narrow coastal plain, called Konkan, along the Arabian Sea. A total of thirty-nine areas including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests were designated as world heritage sites - twenty in Kerala, ten in Karnataka, five in Tamil Nadu and four in Maharashtra.

Habitat conservation

Habitat conservation is a management practice that seeks to conserve, protect and restore habitat areas for wild plants and animals, especially conservation reliant species, and prevent their extinction, fragmentation or reduction in range. It is a priority of many groups that cannot be easily characterized in terms of any one ideology.

Atlantic Forest biome in Brazil

The Atlantic Forest is a South American forest that extends along the Atlantic coast of Brazil from Rio Grande do Norte state in the north to Rio Grande do Sul state in the south, and inland as far as Paraguay and the Misiones Province of Argentina, where the region is known as Selva Misionera.


Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena is a biodiversity hotspot, which includes the tropical moist forests and tropical dry forests of the Pacific coast of South America and the Galapagos Islands. The region extends from easternmost Panama to the lower Magdalena Valley of Colombia, and along the Pacific coast of Colombia and Ecuador to the northwestern corner of Peru. Formerly called the Chocó-Darién-Western Ecuador Hotspot, it has been expanded to include several new areas, notably the Magdalena Valley in northern Colombia. It is bounded on the east by the Andes Mountains. The Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena Hotspot is 1,500 km long and encircles 274,597 km². Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena is near the Pacific Ocean. The factors that threaten Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena are farming encroachment, deforestation, illegal crops, and population growth. Whereas the Panamanian and Colombian portion of the hotspot are relatively intact, approximately 98% of native forest in coastal Ecuador has been cleared, rendering it the most threatened tropical forest in the world. The hotspot includes a wide variety of habitats, ranging from mangroves, beaches, rocky shorelines, and coastal wilderness to some of the world's wettest rain forests in the Colombian Chocó. The hotspot includes a number of ecoregions:

An Endemic Bird Area (EBA) is an area of land identified by BirdLife International as being important for habitat-based bird conservation because it contains the habitats of restricted-range bird species, which are thereby endemic to them. An EBA is formed where the distributions of two or more such restricted-range species overlap. Using this guideline, 218 EBAs were identified when Birdlife International established their Biodiversity project in 1987. A secondary EBA comprises the range of only one restricted-range species.

The Meghalaya subtropical forests is a montane subtropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion of eastern India. The ecoregion covers an area of 41,700 square kilometers (16,100 sq mi), encompassing the Khasi Hills, Garo Hills, and Jaintia Hills of India's Meghalaya state, and adjacent portions of Assam state. The ecoregion is one of the most species-rich in India with a rich diversity of birds, mammals, and plants.

Cape Floristic Region Smallest of the six recognised floral kingdoms of the world

The Cape Floristic Region is a floristic region located near the southern tip of South Africa. It is the only floristic region of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, and includes only one floristic province, known as the Cape Floristic Province.

Conservation in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea together with the West Papua region of Indonesia make up a major tropical wilderness area that still contains 5% of the original and untouched tropical high-biodiversity terrestrial ecosystems. PNG in itself contains over 5% of the world's biodiversity in less than 1% of the world's total land area. The flora of New Guinea is unique because it has two sources of origin. The Gondwana flora from the south and flora with Asian origin from the west, as a result New Guinea shares major family and genera with Australia and the East Asia, but is rich in local endemic species. The endemicity is a result of mountainous isolation, topographic and soil habitat heterogeneity, high forest disturbance rates and abundant aseasonal rainfall year-round. PNG boasts some 15-21,000 higher plants, 3,000 species of orchids, 800 species of coral, 600 species of fish, 250 species of mammals and 760 species of birds and 8 species of tree-kangaroos out of which 84 genera of animals are endemic. Ecosystems range from lowland forests to montane forests, alpine flora down to coastal areas which contains some of the most extensive pristine mangrove areas in the world. Much of this biodiversity has remained intact for thousands of years because the ruggedness of the terrain made the interior lands inaccessible; furthermore low population density and restrictions on the effectiveness of traditional tools, ensured that these biodiversity was never overexploited.

Indo-Burma is a biodiversity hotspot designated by Conservation International.

Tropical Andes

The Tropical Andes are the northern of the three climate-delineated parts of the Andes, the others being the Dry Andes and the Wet Andes. The Tropical Andes' area spans 1,542,644 km2 (595,618 sq mi).

Succulent Karoo desert ecoregion of South Africa and Namibia

The Succulent Karoo is a desert ecoregion of South Africa and Namibia.

Biodiversity of Assam

The biodiversity of Assam, a state in North-East India, makes it a biological hotspot with many rare and endemic plant and animal species. The greatest success in recent years has been the conservation of the Indian rhinoceros at the Kaziranga National Park, but a rapid increase in human population in Assam threatens many plants and animals and their natural habitats.

Fauna of Asia

All the animals living in Asia and its surrounding seas and islands are considered the fauna of Asia. Since there is no natural biogeographic boundary in the west between Europe and Asia, the term "fauna of Asia" is somewhat elusive. Asia is the eastern part of the Palearctic ecozone, and its south-eastern part belongs to the Indomalaya ecozone. Asia shows a notable diversity of habitats, with significant variations in rainfall, altitude, topography, temperature and geological history, which is reflected in its richness of animal life.

Wildlife of Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small, landlocked nation nestled in the southern slopes of the Eastern Himalaya. To its north lies the Tibet Autonomous Region of China and to the west, south and east lies the Indian states of Sikkim, Bengal, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

Samoan tropical moist forests

The Samoan tropical moist forests are a tropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion in the Samoan Islands. They cover an area of 3,100 km2 (1,200 sq mi).

Index of biodiversity articles

This is a list of topics in biodiversity.

Chocó-Darién moist forests

The Chocó-Darién moist forests (NT0115) is an ecoregion in the west of Colombia and east of Panama. The region has extremely high rainfall, and the forests hold great biodiversity. The northern and southern parts of the ecoregion have been considerably modified for ranching and farming, and there are threats from logging for paper pulp, uncontrolled gold mining, coca growing and industrialisation, but the central part of the ecoregion is relatively intact.


  1. "Biodiversity Hotspots in India".
  2. "Why Hotspots Matter". Conservation International.
  3. Myers, N. The Environmentalist 8 187-208 (1988)
  4. Myers, N. The Environmentalist 10 243-256 (1990)
  5. Russell A. Mittermeier, Norman Myers and Cristina Goettsch Mittermeier, Hotspots: Earth's Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Terrestrial Ecoregions, Conservation International, 2000 ISBN   978-968-6397-58-1
  6. 1 2 Myers, Norman; Mittermeier, Russell A.; Mittermeier, Cristina G.; da Fonseca, Gustavo A. B.; Kent, Jennifer (2000). "Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities" (PDF). Nature. 403 (6772): 853–858. doi:10.1038/35002501. ISSN   0028-0836. PMID   10706275.
  7. 1 2 - Biodiversity Hotspots Defined - Biodiversity Hotspots Defined Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 2019-01-24.Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. "Why Hotspots Matter". Conservation International.
  9. "Biodiversity Hotspots in India".
  10. "Biodiversity Hotspots".
  11. Archived August 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  12. "Conservation International" (PDF). The Biodiversity Hotspots. 2010-10-07. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2012-06-22.
  13. "Conservation International". The Biodiversity Hotspots. 2010-10-07. Archived from the original on 2012-03-20. Retrieved 2012-06-22.
  14. "Resources". 2010-10-07. Archived from the original on 2012-03-24. Retrieved 2012-06-22.
  15. "North American Coastal Plain". Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  16. Noss, Reed F.; Platt, William J.; Sorrie, Bruce A.; Weakley, Alan S; Means, D. Bruce; Costanza, Jennifer; Peet, Robert K. (2015). "How global biodiversity hotspots may go unrecognized: lessons from the North American Coastal Plain". Diversity and Distributions. 21 (2): 236–244. doi:10.1111/ddi.12278.
  17. Kareiva, P. and M. Marvier (2003) Conserving Biodiversity Coldspots, American Scientist, 91, 344-351.
  18. Daru, Barnabas H.; van der Bank, Michelle; Davies, T. Jonathan (2014). "Spatial incongruence among hotspots and complementary areas of tree diversity in southern Africa". Diversity and Distributions . 21 (7): 769–780. doi:10.1111/ddi.12290.
  19. Possingham, H. and K. Wilson (2005) Turning up the heat on hotspots, Nature, 436, 919-920.

Further reading