Biodiversity hotspot

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A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region with significant levels of biodiversity that is threatened by human habitation. [1] [2] Norman Myers wrote about the concept in two articles in The Environmentalist in 1988 [3] and 1990, [4] after which the concept was revised following thorough analysis by Myers and others into "Hotspots: Earth's Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Terrestrial Ecoregions" [5] and a paper published in the journal Nature, both in 2000. [6]


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 1,500 species of vascular plants (more than 0.5% of the world's total) as endemics, and it has to have lost at least 70% of its primary vegetation. [6] Globally, 36 zones qualify under this definition. [7] These sites support nearly 60% of the world's plant, bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species, with a 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]

Biodiversity hotspots host their diverse ecosystems on just 2.4% of the planet's surface. [2] Ten hotspots were originally identified by Myer; [1] the current 36 used to cover more than 15.7% of all the land but have lost around 85% of their area. [8] This loss of habitat is why approximately 60% of the world's terrestrial life lives on only 2.4% of the land surface area. Caribbean Islands like Haiti and Jamaica are facing serious pressures on the populations of endemic plants and vertebrates as a result of rapid deforestation. Other areas include the Tropical Andes, Philippines, Mesoamerica, and Sundaland, which, under the current levels at which deforestation is occurring, will likely lose most of their plant and vertebrate species. [9]

Hotspot conservation initiatives

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

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.

A majority of biodiversity exists within the tropics; likewise, most biodiversity hotspots are within the tropics. [15] Of the 36 biodiversity hotspots, 15 are classified as old, climatically-buffered, infertile landscapes (OCBILs). [16] These areas have been historically isolated from interactions with other climate zones, but recent human interaction and encroachment have put these historically safe hotspots at risk. OCBILs have mainly been threatened by the relocation of indigenous groups and military actions as the infertile ground has previously dissuaded human populations. [17] The conservation of OCBILs within biodiversity hotspots has started to garner attention because current theories believe these sites provide not only high levels of biodiversity, but they have relatively stable lineages and the potential for high levels of speciation in the future. Because these sites are relatively stable, they can be classified as refugia. [18]

North and Central America

The Caribbean

South America



Central Asia

South Asia

Southeast Asia and Asia-Pacific

East Asia

West Asia


The high profile of the biodiversity hotspots approach has resulted in some criticism. Papers such as Kareiva & Marvier (2003) [21] 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. [23] 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

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Biodiversity</span> Variety and variability of life forms

Biodiversity or biological diversity is the variety and variability of life on Earth. Biodiversity is a measure of varient at the genetic, species, and ecosystem levels. diversity is not distributed evenly on Earth; it is usually greater in the tropics as a result of the warm climate and high primary productivity in the region near the equator. Tropical forest ecosystems cover less than 100 of Earth's terrestrial face and contain about 50% of the world's species. There are latitudinal gradients in species diversity for both marine and terrestrial taxa. Marine coastal biodiversity is highest globally speaking in the Western indian ocean steered mainly by the highest surface temper In all oceans across the planet, marine species varsity peaks in the mid-latitudinal zones. Terrestrial species threatened with mass extinction can be observed in exceptionally dense regional biodiversity hotspots, with high levels of species endemism under threat. There are 36 such hotspot regions which require the world's attention in order to secure union biodiversity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ecoregion</span> 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 a biogeographic realm. 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 . Ecoregions are also known as "ecozones", although that term may also refer to biogeographic realms.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Protected area</span> Areas protected for having ecological or cultural importance

Protected areas or conservation areas are locations which receive protection because of their recognized natural, ecological or cultural values. Protected areas are those areas in which human presence or the exploitation of natural resources is limited.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Western Ghats</span> Mountain range along the western coast of India

The Western Ghats, also known as the Sahyadri mountain range, is a mountain range that covers an area of 160,000 km2 (62,000 sq mi) in a stretch of 1,600 km (990 mi) parallel to the western coast of the Indian peninsula, traversing the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 36 biodiversity hotspots in the world. It is sometimes called the Great Escarpment of India. It contains a very large proportion of the country's flora and fauna, many of which are endemic to this region. The Western Ghats are older than the Himalayas. They influence 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 the Western Coastal Plains along the Arabian Sea. A total of 39 areas in the Western Ghats, including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests, were designated as world heritage sites in 2012 – twenty of them in Kerala, ten in Karnataka, six in Tamil Nadu and four in Maharashtra.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Deserts and xeric shrublands</span> Habitat type defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature

Deserts and xeric shrublands are a biome defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature. Deserts and xeric shrublands form the largest terrestrial biome, covering 19% of Earth's land surface area. Ecoregions in this habitat type vary greatly in the amount of annual rainfall they receive, usually less than 250 millimetres (10 in) annually except in the margins. Generally evaporation exceeds rainfall in these ecoregions. Temperature variability is also diverse in these lands. Many deserts, such as the Sahara, are hot year-round, but others, such as East Asia's Gobi, become quite cold during the winter.

Conservation status is a measure used in conservation biology to assess an ecoregion's degree of habitat alteration and habitat conservation. It is used to set priorities for conservation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Conservation biology</span> Study of threats to biological diversity

Conservation biology is the study of the conservation of nature and of Earth's biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction and the erosion of biotic interactions. It is an interdisciplinary subject drawing on natural and social sciences, and the practice of natural resource management.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Atlantic Forest</span> South American forest

The Atlantic Forest is a South American forest that extends along the Atlantic coast of Brazil from Rio Grande do Norte state in the northeast 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Endemism</span> Species unique to a natural location or habitat

Endemism is the state of a species only being found in a single defined geographic location, such as an island, state, nation, country or other defined zone; organisms that are indigenous to a place are not endemic to it if they are also found elsewhere. For example, the Cape sugarbird is found exclusively in southwestern South Africa and is therefore said to be endemic to that particular part of the world. An endemic species can also be referred to as an endemism or, in scientific literature, as an endemite.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Habitat destruction</span> Process by which a natural habitat becomes incapable of supporting its native species

Habitat destruction occurs when a natural habitat is no longer able to support its native species. The organisms once living there have either moved to elsewhere or are dead, leading to a decrease in biodiversity and species numbers. Habitat destruction is in fact the leading cause of biodiversity loss and species extinction worldwide.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cerrado</span> Tropical savanna ecoregion of Brazil

The Cerrado is a vast ecoregion of tropical savanna in eastern Brazil, being present in the states of Goiás, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Tocantins, Maranhão, Piauí, Bahia, Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Paraná and the Federal District. The core areas of the Cerrado biome are the Brazilian highlands – the Planalto. The main habitat types of the Cerrado consist of forest savanna, wooded savanna, park savanna and gramineous-woody savanna. The Cerrado also includes savanna wetlands and gallery forests.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Meghalaya subtropical forests</span> Ecoregion of India

The Meghalaya subtropical forests is Northeast India. The ecoregion covers an area of 41,700 square kilometers (16,100 sq mi), and despite its name, comprise not only the state of Meghalaya, but also parts of southern Assam, and a tiny bit of Nagaland around Dimapur and adjacent Bangladesh. It also contains many other habitats than subtropical forests, but the montane subtropical forests found in Meghalaya is an important biome, and was once much more widespread in the region, and for these reasons chosen as the most suitable name. The scientific designation is IM0126.

The Lower Guinean forests also known as the Lower Guinean-Congolian forests, are a region of coastal tropical moist broadleaf forest in West Africa, extending along the eastern coast of the Gulf of Guinea from eastern Benin through Nigeria and Cameroon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">California Floristic Province</span> Region of uniform plant variety in the western United States and Mexico

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 many 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tropical Andes</span> Tropical subregion of the Andes Mountains

The Tropical Andes is 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).

<i>Campos rupestres</i>

The campo rupestre is a discontinuous montane subtropical ecoregion occurring across three different biomes in Brazil: Cerrado, Atlantic Forest and Caatinga. Originally, campo rupestre was used to characterize the montane vegetation of the Espinhaço Range, but recently this term has been broadly applied by the scientific community to define high altitudinal fire-prone areas dominated by grasslands and rocky outcrops.

Lee Hannah is a conservation ecologist and a Senior Researcher in Climate Change Biology at Conservation International. Hannah is one of many authors who published an article predicting that between 15% and 37% of species are at risk of extinction due to climate change caused by human greenhouse gas emissions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Biogeographic classification of India</span>

Biogeographic classification of India is the division of India according to biogeographic characteristics. Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species (biology), organisms, and ecosystems in geographic space and through geological time. India has a rich heritage of natural diversity. India ranks fourth in Asia and tenth in the world amongst the top 17 mega-diverse countries in the world. India harbours nearly 11% of the world's floral diversity comprising over 17500 documented flowering plants, 6200 endemic species, 7500 medicinal plants and 246 globally threatened species in only 2.4% of world's land area. India is also home to four biodiversity hotspots—Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Eastern Himalaya, Indo-Burma region, and the Western Ghats. Hence the importance of biogeographical study of India's natural heritage.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Biodiversity loss</span> Extinction of species or loss of species in a given habitat

Biodiversity loss happens when plant or animal species disappear completely from Earth (extinction) or when there is a decrease or disappearance of species in a specific area. Biodiversity loss means that there is a reduction in biological diversity in a given area. The decrease can be temporary or permanent. It is temporary if the damage that led to the loss is reversible in time, for example through ecological restoration. If this is not possible, then the decrease is permanent. The cause of most of the biodiversity loss is, generally speaking, human activities that push the planetary boundaries too far. These activities include habitat destruction and land use intensification. Further problem areas are air and water pollution, over-exploitation, invasive species and climate change.

The Biodiversity of South Africa is the variety of living organisms within the boundaries of South Africa and its exclusive economic zone. South Africa is a region of high biodiversity in the terrestrial and marine realms. The country is ranked sixth out of the world's seventeen megadiverse countries, and is rated among the top 10 for plant species diversity and third for marine endemism.


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Further reading