Biodiversity Hotspots are species-rich communities threatened by habitat loss, destruction, and rising extinction rates. Biodiversity Hotspots are not distributed uniformly around the globe: North and Central America contain four Hotspots while South America hosts five. The Caribbean Islands are their own Hotspot.
The only one found in Europe is the region that comprises the Mediterranean Basin. Central Asia has one Hotspot, East and West Asia two, South Asia three, and South East Asia and Asia-Pacific regions have a total of nine Biodiversity Hotspots. The continent of Africa has eight Hotspots.
A Biodiversity Hotspot is not defined by a single plant community or ecosystem, but by a unique set of diverse ecosystems that characterizes the region, and have at least 1,500 endemic plant species that have lost a minimum of 70% of their original extent. 25 global Hotspots were identified at the turn of the millennium using these criteria.
Over the intervening years, these have been expanded to 36 confirmed global Hotspots, which support more than 50% of the earth’s vascular plants across 16% of the Earth’s land surface* or 2.4% of the planet. Approximately 60% of terrestrial life survives on this critically threatened 2.4% of the land surface area.
WHY ARE BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOTS IMPORTANT?
There are places on Earth that are both biologically rich — and deeply threatened. For our own sake, we must work to protect them.
Species are the building blocks of Earth’s life-support systems. We all depend on them.
But our planet’s “biodiversity,” the vast array of life on Earth, faces a crisis of historic proportions. Development, urbanization, pollution, and disease — they’re all wreaking havoc on the tree of life. Today, species are going extinct at the fastest rate since the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.
To stem this crisis, we must protect the places where biodiversity lives. But species aren’t evenly distributed around the planet. Certain areas have large numbers of endemic species — those found nowhere else. Many of these are heavily threatened by habitat loss and other human activities. These areas are the biodiversity hotspots, 36 regions where success in conserving species can have an enormous impact in securing our global biodiversity.
The forests and other remnant habitats in hotspots represent just 2.5% of Earth’s land surface. But you’d be hard-pressed to find another 2.5% of the planet that’s more important.
To qualify as a biodiversity hotspot, a region must meet two strict criteria:
- It must have at least 1,500 vascular plants as endemics — which is to say, it must have a high percentage of plant life found nowhere else on the planet. A hotspot, in other words, is irreplaceable.
- It must have 30% or less of its original natural vegetation. In other words, it must be threatened.
FACT: Around the world, 36 areas qualify as hotspots. Their intact habitats represent just 2.5% of Earth’s land surface, but they support more than half of the world’s plant species as endemics — i.e., species found no place else — and nearly 43% of bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species as endemics.Source: conservation.org/
HOW DID THE CONCEPT OF BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOTS BEGIN?
In 1988, British ecologist Norman Myers published a seminal paper identifying 10 tropical forest “hotspots.” These regions were characterized both by exceptional levels of plant endemism and serious levels of habitat loss.
Conservation International, one of CEPF’s global donor organizations, adopted Myers’ hotspots as its institutional blueprint in 1989. In 1996, the organization made the decision to undertake a reassessment of the hotspots concept, including an examination of whether key areas had been overlooked. Three years later an extensive global review was undertaken, which introduced quantitative thresholds for the designation of biodiversity hotspots and resulted in the designation of 25.
In 2005, an additional analysis brought the total number of biodiversity hotspots to 34, based on the work of nearly 400 specialists.
In 2011, the Forests of East Australia were identified as the 35th hotspot by a team of researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) working with Conservation International.
In February 2016, the North American Coastal Plain was recognized as meeting the criteria and became the Earth’s 36th hotspot.
9 BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOTs in Asia
Central Asia has one Hotspot, East and West Asia two, South Asia three, and South East Asia and Asia-Pacific regions have a total of nine Biodiversity Hotspots.
Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot
In terms of species diversity and endemism, the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot—which comprises all non-marine parts of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, plus parts of southern China—is one of the most biologically important regions of the planet.
The hotspot is still revealing its biological treasures—six large mammal species have been discovered since 1992. A remarkable diversity of tortoise and freshwater turtle species are found here, too, as are some 1,200 species of birds.
More than 300 million people live in Indo-Burma, more than any other hotspot. The vast majority of them depend on the services provided by the hotspot’s natural ecosystems. Of particular importance, in a region where paddy rice and fish provide the staple diet of most people, are hydrological services and provisioning of fish and other freshwater products. The issues of poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation are, therefore, inextricably linked.
Hotspot’s species in chapter four ecosystem profile (PDF – 34 MB)
Sundaland Biodiversity Hotspot
The Sundaland Biodiversity Hotspot covers the western half of the Indonesian archipelago, a group of some 17,000 islands stretching 5,000 kilometers, and is dominated by the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.
Politically, the hotspot covers a small portion of southern Thailand; nearly all of Malaysia; Singapore; Brunei; and the western half of Indonesia. The Nicobar Islands, which are under Indian jurisdiction, are also included.
Sundaland’s topography is comprised of high mountain ranges, volcanoes, plains, lakes, swamps and shallow coastal waters. The hotspot is one of the biologically richest regions on Earth, holding about 25,000 species of vascular plants, 60 percent of which are endemic.
Some 380 mammal species are found here, including two species of orangutans: the Critically Endangered Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), and the Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutan (P. abelii). Other iconic species include the Endangered proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus), which lives only on Borneo, and two rhinoceros species: the Critically Endangered Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) and the Critically Endangered Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).
Wallacea Biodiversity Hotspot
First described by Alfred Russel Wallace in 1869, the Wallacea region supports a startling amount of biodiversity. More than half of the hotspot’s mammals, 40 percent of birds and 65 percent of amphibians do not occur outside the hotspot. In addition, the region, along with neighboring New Guinea, has more marine species than anywhere else on the planet, forming the heart of the western Pacific area known as the “Coral Triangle.”
Some 30 million people live in Wallacea, primarily along the coasts of the more than 1,680 islands found here. They earn their living primarily from farms, forests, wetlands and the sea. Like much of Indonesia, Wallacea reflects the mixing of numerous cultures over the ages—indigenous, Javan, Indian, Chinese, Polynesian, Portuguese, Arabian and Dutch among them—resulting in an interweaving of languages, religions and ethnicities. This is highly significant as governments and civil society make decisions that aim to balance economic growth with the protection of biodiversity.
Ecosystem Profile Summary, 2014 ENGLISH (PDF 1.5 Mb) HERE
Philippines biodiversity hotspot
The Philippines includes more than 7,100 islands in the westernmost Pacific Ocean and is likely the most biologically diverse country in the world in terms of unique terrestrial and marine plant and animal species per unit area.
The islands, most of which are now inhabited by humans, feature diverse topographic landscapes ranging from rugged volcanic mountains, plateaus and vast fertile plains—now cropland for rice, corn and coconut—to long coastlines with some of the world’s most colorful coral reefs.
Many endemic species are confined to forest fragments that cover only 7 percent of the original extent of the hotspot. This includes more than 6,000 plant species and many birds species such as the Critically Endangered Cebu flowerpecker (Dicaeum quadricolor), the Critically Endangered Visayan wrinkled hornbill (Aceros waldeni) and the Critically Endangered Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi). Amphibian endemism is also unusually high and boosts unique species like the panther flying frog (Rhacophorus pardalis).
Ecosystem Profile, 2011 ENGLISH (PDF 1.7 Mb) HERE
East Melanesian Islands
This biogeographic region is located in Oceania’s Melanesia region. The hotspot includes about 1,600 islands to the east and northeast of the island of New Guinea that encompasses an area of about 100,000 square km. Six ecoregions are part of this hotspot. Tropical rainforests cover large tracts of the area in this hotspot. About 8,000 vascular plant species are found here including 3,000 endemic species. 360 species of birds of which 40% are endemics also live here.
Nearly 50% of the 85 species of mammals of the East Melanesian Islands is found nowhere else in the world. Bats exhibit the greatest diversity among the mammalians found here. The reptilian, fish, amphibian, and invertebrate diversity of the region are also noteworthy.
New Caledonia’s biodiversity is one of the richest in the world. This biodiversity hotspot features a variety of habitats including coral reefs, atolls, and islands of various sizes. High levels of endemism can be seen in the species inhabiting the islands of New Caledonia. 22 endemic species of terrestrial birds like the New Caledonian crow, laurel forest pigeon, New Caledonian parakeet, and others are found here.
Six endemic species of bats are the only indigenous mammals found here. The world’s highest biodiversity of Volutomitridae is found in the offshore waters of New Caledonia. Several endemic reptilian species also occur here. Deforestation and invasive species are the biggest threats to the wildlife of New Caledonia.
New Zealand, an island country in the Pacific Ocean, hosts incredible biodiversity and a large number of endemic species by virtue of its relative isolation in the ocean. Species here have evolved on their own for millions of years to produce flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world. 80% of all vascular plants found in New Zealand are endemic to the country.
All reptiles, amphibians, and bats found here are also endemic. Nearly 70% of the birds of New Zealand, 90% of freshwater fish species, and 90% of insects and mollusks are also specific to the islands of New Zealand. The Maui’s dolphin and Hector’s dolphin are two cetacean subspecies that are also found only in the offshore waters of New Zealand.
This biodiversity hotspot includes all islands of Polynesia and Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean as well as the islands of Fiji. This hotspot thus spreads across a massive including 11 nations, 8 territories, and even Hawaii. However, the total land area included in this hotspot is only about the size of Switzerland. A wide variety of ecosystems are found here such as wetlands, rainforests, grasslands, etc. The indigenous flora and fauna of these islands are greatly threatened by habitat loss and invasive species.
Eastern Australian Temperate Forests
This biodiversity hotspot stretches along the coast of the Pacific Ocean from just south of Sydney to the northern parts of the city of Cairns. Like other hotspots, the coastal forests in this region is home to a great diversity of flora and fauna including many that are not found elsewhere. In many areas in this hotspot, native vegetation has been cleared out to make space for human settlements and economic activities. Thus, protecting the forests here is the need of the day.
This biodiversity hotspot occupies an area of around 356,700 square km in Australia’s southwestern tip. The region has different types of habitats including forest, shrublands, woodlands, and heath vegetation. Some of the endemic species found here include the red-capped parrot, endangered numbat, honey possum, western swamp turtle, and others.