A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region that is both a significant reservoir of biodiversity and is threatened with destruction. The term biodiversity hotspot specifically refers to 25 biologically rich areas around the world that have lost at least 70 percent of their original habitat.
Qualification for Biodiversity Hotspot
To qualify as a biodiversity hotspot, a region must meet two strict criteria:
- Contain at least 1,500 species of vascular plants (> 0.5 percent of the world’s total) as endemics (species found nowhere else on Earth).
- Have lost at least 70 percent of its original habitat.
Many of the biodiversity hotspots exceed these criterion. For example, both the Sundaland Hotspot in Southeast Asia and the Tropical Andes Hotspot have around 15,000 endemic plant species, while the loss of vegetation in some hotspots has reached 95 percent.
List of Biodiversity Hotspots
- North and Central America
- California Floristic Province-8
- Madrean pine-oak woodlands-26
- North American Coastal Plain (composed of Atlantic Coastal Plain and Gulf Coastal Plain)-36
- Caribbean Islands-3
- Atlantic Forest-4
- Chilean Winter Rainfall-Valdivian Forests-7
- Tropical Andes-1
- Mediterranean Basin-14
- Cape Floristic Region-12
- Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa-10
- Eastern Afromontane-28
- Guinean Forests of West Africa-11
- Horn of Africa-29
- Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands-9
- Succulent Karoo-13
- Mountains of Central Asia-31
- Eastern Himalaya, Nepal, India-32
- Indo-Burma, India and Myanmar-19
- Western Ghats, India-21
- Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka-21
South East Asia and Asia-Pacific
- East Melanesian Islands-34
- New Caledonia-23
- New Zealand-24
- Eastern Australian temperate forests-35
- Southwest Australia-22
- Sundaland and Nicobar islands of India-16
- Mountains of Southwest China-20
Criticism of Biodiversity Hotspots
The high profile of the biodiversity hotspots approach has resulted in some criticism. Papers such as Kareiva & Marvier (2003) have argued that the biodiversity hotspots:
- Do not adequately represent other forms of species richness (e.g. total species richness or threatened species richness).
- Do not adequately represent taxa other than vascular plants (e.g. vertebrates, or fungi).
- Do not protect smaller scale richness hotspots.
- Do not make allowances for changing land use patterns. Hotspots represent regions that have experienced considerable habitat loss, but this does not mean they are experiencing ongoing habitat loss. On the other hand, regions that are relatively intact (e.g. the Amazon Basin) have experienced relatively little land loss, but are currently losing habitat at tremendous rates.
- Do not protect ecosystem services.
- Do not consider phylogenetic diversity.
A recent series of papers has pointed out that biodiversity hotspots (and many other priority region sets) do not address the concept of cost. 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.
Biodiversity Hotspots of India
- Himalaya: Includes the entire Indian Himalayan region (and that falling in Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar)
- Indo-Burma: Includes entire North-eastern India, except Assam and Andaman group of Islands (and Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and southern China)
- Sundalands: Includes Nicobar group of Islands (and Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Philippines)
- Western Ghats and Sri Lanka: Includes entire Western Ghats (and Sri Lanka)