This article takes look at the “biodiversity hotspots in the world“, its importance and how these biodiversity hotspots in the world were spotted. Mother Earth is a veritable treasure trove of biological diversity, with habitats ranging from the highest mountain summits to the deepest oceans, and also ranging from the tropics to the poles.
Only 1.2 million species have been found by scientists so far, out of an estimated 8.7 million species that now live on Earth. The distribution of species, on the other hand, is not even global. Some areas have a large number of endemic species that can’t be found anywhere else on the earth.
But, there are different human activities causing serious challenges to the biodiversity hotspots in the world. This unequal species distribution, combined with concerns about rapid biodiversity loss, has resulted in the identification of specific places with high levels of biodiversity and risks to it at the same time. Exploration and assessment of the biodiversity of such sites are thus critical for the development of innovative techniques for the species’ protection and management.
Around 2 billion people live in the 36 biodiversity hotspots in the world, including some of the world’s poorest, many of whom rely on healthy ecosystems for their livelihood and well-being. Human survival depends on the ecosystem for the provision of clean water, pollination, and climate management, which are all provided by the hotspots.
These spectacular sites also have some of the world’s greatest human population densities, though this doesn’t mean that the relationship between people and biodiversity is simply one of more people causing more environmental consequences. Anthropogenic activity, not human density, is responsible for human-biodiversity impacts.
Conservation of the biodiversity hotspots in the world encourages the long-term management of these natural resources whilst promoting economic growth, which lessens the causes of violent conflict.
What is a Biodiversity Hotspot?
A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region with high biodiversity that is threatened by human settlement. Biodiversity Hotspots in the world are biogeographic regions with the richest and most endangered reservoirs of plant and animal life.
These areas have been designated as some of the world’s most important ecosystems, including a large number of endemic species and providing critical ecosystem services to humans. Although biodiversity hotspots account for only 2.3 percent of the Earth’s land surface, they are home to 44 percent of the world’s plants and 35 percent of terrestrial vertebrates.
The majority of plants in some of the world’s biodiversity hotspots are endemic, meaning they can’t be found anyplace else on the planet. Yet, by definition, biodiversity hotspots in the world are facing a conservation catastrophe. A territory must have lost at least 70% of its original natural vegetation to be classed as a biodiversity hotspot in the world, which is mainly due to human activities.
Norman Myers discussed the concept in two articles published in The Environmentalist in 1988 and 1990, after which the concept was revised in “Hotspots: Earth’s Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Terrestrial Ecoregions” and a paper published in the journal Nature, both in 2000, following a thorough analysis by Myers and others.
A region must meet two severe requirements to qualify as a biodiversity hotspot on Myers’ 2000 edition of the hotspot map: it must have at least 1,500 indigenous vascular plant species (more than 0.5 per cent of the world’s total) and it must have lost at least 70% of its main vegetation.
How many Biodiversity Hotspots are in the World?
There are 36 biodiversity hotspots in the world. Nearly 60% of the world’s plant, bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species may be found here, with many of those species being endemic. Some of these hotspots are home to up to 15,000 indigenous plant species, while others have lost up to 95% of their native environment.
Originally, 25 biological hotspots covered 11.8 per cent of the earth’s geographical surface. However, the land surface covered by these hotspots has climbed to 15.7 per cent following the addition of 11 more hotspots. The combined area of the world’s 36 hotspots formerly accounted for about 15.7 per cent of the earth’s land area, or over 23.7 million sq km.
However, due to substantial habitat loss in these locations as a result of anthropogenic activities, the aggregate area of all global hotspots today occupies only 2.4 per cent (about 3.4 million sq km) of the earth’s surface area and provides around 35 per cent of the world’s ecosystem services.
Because of habitat destruction, around 60% of the world’s terrestrial life survives on only 2.4 per cent of the land surface area. Rapid deforestation is affecting the populations of indigenous plants and vertebrates on Caribbean islands like Haiti and Jamaica.
Other locations include the Tropical Andes, Philippines, Mesoamerica, and Sundaland, which would certainly lose the majority of their plant and animal species if deforestation continues at current rates.
More than 152,000 (almost half) of the world’s vascular plant species and 42% of all vertebrate species (amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) are indigenous to these areas. In these hotspots, endemics include 3608 amphibians, 3723 reptiles, 3551 birds, and 1845 mammals, according to estimates.
According to the Red List of Threatened Species published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), these hotspots are home to more than 79 per cent of threatened amphibians, 63 per cent of threatened birds, and 60 per cent of threatened mammals. According to current population figures, over 2.08 billion people live in biodiversity hotspots in the world and are reliant on these forest areas for existence.
Below is the list of 36 biodiversity hotspots in the world.
North and Central America
Thousands of acres of significant habitats can be found on these continents.
Examples of such habitats include:
- California Floristic Province
- Madrean Pine-oak woodlands
- Caribbean Island
- North American Coastal Plain
It is home to some of the most diverse life on the planet.
- Tropical Andes
- Atlantic Forest
- Chilean Winter Rainfall-Valdivian Forests
It boasts the most ecological hotspots on the continent, with a total of 16 major biodiversity hotspots.
- Eastern Himalaya
- Western Ghats, India: Srilanka
- Indo-Burma, India, and Myanmar
- New Caledonia
- New Zealand
- East Melanesian Islands
- Southwest Australia
- Eastern Australia
- Mountains of Southwest China
- Mountains of Central Asia
- Mediterranean Basin
These eight hotspots are home to a wide variety of animals and plants, many of which are unique to these places.
- Coastal Forests of Africa
- Eastern Afromontane
- Guinean Forests of West Africa
- Horn of Africa
- Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands
- Succulent Karoo
- Cape Floral region
Why are Biodiversity Hotspots Important?
The building blocks of Earth’s life-support systems are species. We are all reliant on them.
However, the biodiversity in the world is facing a catastrophic crisis. All of these factors are playing havoc on the tree of life: development, urbanization, pollution, and disease. Species are vanishing faster than they have since the dinosaur extinction.
To avert this disaster, we must safeguard the habitats of biodiversity. However, species are not equally dispersed around the globe. A considerable number of endemic species – those found nowhere else — can be found in some places. Habitat destruction and other human activities have put many of these species in jeopardy.
Biodiversity in the world is important for the following reasons:
- Preservation: They create an ecoregion in which numerous endemic species can be preserved and conserved. More than 15,000 indigenous plant species are found in biodiversity hotspots around the world, with some of them losing up to 95 per cent of their natural habitat.
- Development: They contribute to the growth of a healthy ecosystem.
- Natural resources: These hotspots are beneficial to natural resource conservation.
- Pollution control: These areas aid in pollution control.
- Habitat: Many species use biodiversity hotspots as their home.
- Food: They provide food for many species, including humans.
- Medicinal resources: They are a good source of pharmaceutical pharmaceuticals and treatments.
- Human Survival: Humanity would perish! At this rate of extinction occurring in the biodiversity hotspots in the world, we will have less air to breathe, food to eat, and even water to drink and use. These biological hotspots are the most important for human survival, and they are also the most endangered.
Criteria for an Area to become a Biodiversity Hotspot
A region must meet two tight requirements to qualify as a biodiversity hotspot in the world according to Myers’ 2000 edition of the hotspot map:
- lIt must have at least 0.5 per cent, or 1,500 vascular plants, as endemics – that is, a high percentage of plant life that can be found nowhere else on the earth. In other words, a hotspot is irreplaceable.
- lIt must have no more than 30% of its original natural vegetation. To put it another way, it must be in danger.
Biodiversity Hotspots in the World – FAQs
Which is the biggest biodiversity hotspot in the world?
The Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspot, which stretches from western Venezuela to northern Chile and Argentina, and includes vast swaths of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, is three times the size of Spain.
The Tropical Andes are the most ecologically diverse of all the hotspots, containing almost one-sixth of all plant life on the globe, including 30,000 vascular plant species. The region also has the most amphibian, avian, and mammal species, and ranks second in reptile richness behind the Mesoamerican Hotspot.