The world is full of different and biologically diverse ecosystems, each providing its own set of values and uniqueness. Biodiversity is vital to a healthy ecosystem and refers to the variety of plant and animal species in a region.
What is a biodiversity hotspot?
One way to protect, track and monitor areas where diversity is declining and provide an increase in conservation efforts to that area is to identify biodiversity hotspots .
Norman Myers first proposed the topic in 1998 and it was later adapted into the current standard practices. There are two main components to hotspot identification :
- the area must be home to a large about of endemic plants
- and it must also suffer from severe habitat loss.
More specifically, the first criteria is that the area has to be home to a minimum of 1,500 species of plants being endemic to that region . In other words, these 1,500 plant species can only be found in that region to qualify as a hotspot.
Second, 70 percent or more or the original habitat must have been lost . If both of these criteria are met, then the area is classified as a biodiversity hotspot.
Where are biodiversity hotspots located?
Today, there are 35 biodiversity hotspots that have been identified around the world . Although they only make up less than 2.5% of land surface, a large portion of the species in these zones are only found in that particular region [1,2].
In the Asian-Pacific, there are 14 hotspots . This region includes the hotspots found on land and also the locations identified on the various Pacific Ocean islands. These hotspots include popular islands including New Zealand and the Philippines .
Within the Philippines, the three most threatened endemic species includes the Palawan bearcat, the Rufous hornbill and the Philippine eagle-owl .
Much of the hotspot habitat off the coast of the Philippines includes complex reef systems that are declining due to illegal fishing methods.
The Americas contain 9 hotspots. In Northern and Central America, the hotspot area spans thousands of acres in size.
In South America, the mighty Amazon rainforest in Brazil and the Andes mountain chain account for much of the world’s most impressive and richest ecosystems .
In Africa, there have been identified 8 hotspots . One hotspot on this continent is the rich, biologically diverse island of Madagascar. In eastern Africa, the coastal forests just south of the Horn of Africa makes up another of the hotspots here.
This area is home to three highly threatened species of monkey, two species of bushbabies and 1,700 other endemic plans and animal species that are threatened.
Local and commercial harvesting is to blame for much of the habitat loss and destruction in this area .
Europe and Central Asia
Finally, Europe and central Asia contains 4 different hotspot areas . These hotspot locations include the Caucasus region (including the Caucasus Mountains), the Irano-Anatolian region, the Mediterranean Basin and the Mountains of Central Asia .
Included among the more than 1,600 threatened endemic species in the Irano-Anatolian region, four species are vipers.
Overall, these areas are vital to the biodiversity of the world. Identifying biodiversity hotspots and at-risk areas is an important step in the right direction in order to be able to protect valuable ecosystems. However, identification of the problem is not enough.
Conservation efforts must follow and these efforts and protections have to be enforced in all countries. Humans have a profound impact on the natural world and because these biodiversity hotspots are distributed in locations all over the globe, it is going to take a worldwide effort to help save these areas.