Biodiversity Hotspots in the World – The areas serving as the richest spot for biodiversity location are termed as ‘BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOTS’. The concept of Biodiversity Hotspots was given by Sir Norman Myers in the year 1988.
Biodiversity Estimation of Earth
BIODIVERSITY, in general terms, comprises the variability of all life forms present on the Earth including all the fauna and flora species present on the planet. To be more specific, it denotes the total species present in a specific ecosystem. All the species on Earth compete with each other for ensuring their survival while living together in the same ecosystem with each other. It has been estimated that about 8.7 million species of flora and fauna are currently in existence on the Planet Earth of which only 1.2 million species have been discovered so far and still a lot more is yet to be discovered as many of the Earth’s rich biodiversity areas are still unexplored.
These places serve as the plethora of fauna and flora species including some of the endemic species because of the geologic formations and also exhibiting exceptional scientific interest. These designated areas account for about 2.3% of the Earth’s surface accounting for a total of 35% of the global ecosystem services. The hotspots provide crucial ecosystem services for human life, such as the provision of clean water, pollination and climate regulation besides supporting rich biodiversity. They also serve as a home for several ‘ENDEMIC SPECIES’ that are confined to a specific ecological spot and are not found anywhere else on the planet. These are the Native species of the particular area. For any area to be considered as a Biodiversity Hotspot, it must meet the following two criteria:
- The area should have at least 1500 vascular species of plants as ENDEMIC.
- The area must be in the Threatened list of IUCN which means that it should have left with 30% or less of its natural vegetation.
There are a total of 34 Biodiversity Hotspots in the World that are listed as:
- Eastern Afro-Montane– The areas covered are Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe
- The Guinean forests of Western Africa– The areas covered are Benin, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Togo
- The Horn of Africa– The areas covered are Somalia, all of Djibouti, parts of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Yemen and Oman, and a small piece of far northeastern Sudan and Socotra Archipelago off the coast of northeastern Somalia
- Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands– The areas covered are Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles
- Maputoland-Podoland-Albany hotspot – The areas covered are Limpopo River in southern Mozambique and the Olifants River in Mpumalanga, South Africa in the north, through Swaziland and the KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa, to South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province in the south
- Succulent Karou – The areas covered are Namibia-Gariep, Namaqualand, Hantam Tanqua Roggeveld and Southern Karoo
- East Melanesian islands – The areas covered are Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu
- South Africa’s Cape floristic hotspot – The areas covered are Region of South Africa in the Western Cape in the southwestern corner of the country, extending eastward into the Eastern Cape, and to the east in Kwa Zulu-Natal
- Coastal forests of Eastern Africa – The areas covered are eastern edges of Africa, parts of Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, islands of Pemba, Zanzibar, Mafia and the Bazaruto Archipelago.
Asia and Australia
- Himalayan hotspot – It covers both the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Himalayas.
- The Eastern Himalayas – covers parts of Nepal, Bhutan, the northeast Indian states of West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh, southeast Tibet (China), and northern Myanmar.
- Japan biodiversity hotspot – It covers the land area of the nation of Japan
- Mountains of South-West China –It covers the southeast Tibet through western Sichuan and extends into central and northern Yunnan. This Biodiversity Hotspot is the most botanically rich temperate forest ecosystem in the world.
- New Caledonia – This hotspot is located in the South Pacific region, some 1,200 kilometers east of Australia. It consists of the main island of Grande Terre and the smaller Loyalty Islands to the east, Belep Islands to the north and Isle of Pines to the south extending to the Chesterfield Islands to the west, and the uninhabited volcanic islands of Matthew and Hunter to the east.
- New Zealand Biodiversity Hotspot – This Biodiversity Hotspot covers the country’s three main islands (North Island, South Island and Stewart Island) and several smaller surrounding islands: the Chatham Islands, Kermadec Islands and Subantarctic Islands including Bounty Islands, Antipodes Islands, Campbell Island, Snares Islands, Auckland Islands and Macquarie Island. It also covers two islands namely Lord Howe and Norfolk islands of Australian territories.
- Philippine Biodiversity Hotspot – Sierra Madre Corridor including the areas of Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Bulacan, Rizal, and Quezon, Palawan Corridor and Eastern Mindanao Corridor including the areas of Siargao Island, extending to the south till Mt. Hamiguitan and to portions of the Agusan Marsh in the west.
- Western Sundaland- It covers the western half of the Indonesian archipelago dominated by the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, nearly all of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei region. A very small portion of the Indian Territory also comes under this Biodiversity hotspot in the form of The Nicobar Islands.
- Wallacea – It covers the parts of Eastern Indonesia
- The Western Ghats of India and Islands of Sri Lanka – It covers the states of Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and Sri Lanka
- Polynesia and Micronesian Islands – This Biodiversity Hotspot covers all the islands of Micronesia and Polynesia, plus Fiji region, scattered across the Pacific Ocean
- South-Western Australia- The region includes the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrubeco region of Western Australia
North and Central America
- California Floristic Province- It lies in the region that extends from Santa Barbara in Southern California to the parallel 30th in Northern Baja California (about 220 miles from San Diego)
- Caribbean Islands Hotspot- This Island Hotspot comprises of 30 nations and territories as Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands, Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint-Eustatius, Sint-Maarten, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin
- Madrean pine-oak Woodlands – This woodland hotspot includes Mexico’s main mountain chains, namely the Sierra Madre Occidental, the Sierra Madre Oriental, the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, the Sierra Madre del Sur, and the Sierra Norte de Oaxaca, as well as isolated mountaintop islands in Baja California
- The Mesoamerican forests – The Mesoamerica Biodiversity Hotspot encompasses all of the subtropical and tropical ecosystems from central Mexico to the Panama Canal including all of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, as well as a third of Mexico and nearly two-thirds of Panama. It also includes a number of nearshore and offshore islands in both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, which are important biologically due to the presence of endemic species and as nesting areas for seabirds.
- Cerrado– The Cerrado Biodiversity hotspots currently covers around 20% of the total area of Brazil. It lies between Amazon, Atlantic Forests and Pantanal, and is the largest savanna region in South America.
- Chilean winter rainfall (Valdivian) Forests – The Chilean Winter Rainfall-Valdivian Forests covers the central-northern part of the nation of Chile and the far western edge of Argentina, stretching from the Pacific coast to the crest of the Andean mountains. The biodiversity hotspot encompasses about 40 percent of Chile’s land area and includes the offshore islands of San Félix and San Ambrosio and the Juan Fernández Islands.
- Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena- This biodiversity Hhotspot extends south and east into the wet and moist forests of Panama’s Darién Province, through the Chocó region of western Colombia and the moist forests along the west coast of Ecuador, and into the dry forests of eastern Ecuador and extending to the extreme north west to the Peru region. It has been notably extended in recent times to the Magdalena Valley in northern Colombia.
- Tropical Andes – The areas covered under this hotspot are Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
- Atlantic forest – The Atlantic Forest hotspot stretches along Brazil’s Atlantic coast, from the northern state of Rio Grande do Norte south to the Rio Grande do Sul extending towards inland to eastern Paraguay and the province of Misiones in northeastern Argentina, and narrowly along the coast into Uruguay. This hotspot also includes the offshore archipelago of Fernando de Noronha and several other islands off the Brazilian coast.
Europe and Central Asia
- Caucasus- The Caucasus Biodiversity Hotspot includes Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and parts of Russia, Iran and Turkey.
- Iran-Anatolia region- This hotspot includes the major parts of central and eastern Turkey, a small portion of southern Georgia, the Nahçevan Province of Azerbaijan, much of Armenia, northeastern Iraq, northern and western Iran, and the Northern Kopet Dagh Range in Turkmenistan.
- The Mediterranean basin- The Biodiversity hotspot of the Mediterranean Basin covers the areas of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cabo Verde, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Montenegro, Morocco, North Macedonia, Tunisia
- Mountains of Central Asia– It covers the areas of Afghanistan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
As the world continues to grow at a very fast pace, the Biodiversity hotspots around the globe are facing a large phase of extinction and a rapid decrease in its endemic and threatened species present in its ecological area. It is causing serious habitat loss which in turn, is affecting the global population of species present on the Earth. The biggest killers of wildlife globally are unsustainable hunting and harvesting. Factors, such as pollution, exploitation of land, invasive species, deforestation, and climate change are some of the other major causes of habitat loss and destruction at these hotspots.
- The consequences of climate change are extremely widespread, threatening even places untouched by humans.
- Along with habitat destruction, the effects of climate change are expected to be particularly severe on those plants not capable of dispersing their seeds over long distances.
- All kinds of habitat ranging from tropical rainforest to coral reefs are destroyed or extensively modified for human settlements, agricultural expansion, and exploitation of natural resources.
- The introduction of exotic species to the local environment is also a major threat to the native biota.
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Conserving our Biodiversity Hotspots
In order to protect our planet, we can start by making some small changes in our daily lives. Taking action by recycling, picking up trash, being conservative with our water consumption, and limiting pollution emission by reducing our dependence on vehicles and promoting more of walking, biking, or taking public transportation are the ways by which we could help the environment to heal itself. We can also come up with our own ideas, as we educate ourselves on biodiversity by reading about different places and living things. The more scientific way of conserving biodiversity is by adopting two ways:-
In-situ Conservation– It is the method of conservation of genetic resources in natural populations and habitats of plant or animal species. It involves the reduction of biotic pressure rehabilitation and helps in the multiplication of the species through the process of evolution and adaptation. The faunal species are more adaptable to this kind of conservation process as it supports the species mobility with a larger habitat area.
- National Parks
- Biosphere Reserves
- Wildlife Sanctuaries
Ex-situ Conservation– It is the process of conservation of living organisms outside of their natural habitat through genetic conservation including both captive propagation of species and their eventual release into the natural or restored ecosystem. In this conservation process, artificial conditions are created to make their habitat almost like a natural habitat. This method enhances the probability of reproductive success for endangered species. The faunal species, in this method, have less mobility owing to the smaller habitat area.
- Gene Banks
To ensure the survival of highly impacted species with little or no access to refuges, “active threat management” is needed to open enough viable habitats for the threatened and endemic species of the area to survive. Conservation in the hotspots promotes sustainable management of these essential natural resources and supports economic growth, which also reduces drivers of violent conflict. Some global organizations like Conservation International, the World Wide Fund for Nature, Alliance for Zero Extinction, and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund have implemented efforts to conserve different biodiversity hotspots.
These Biodiversity Hotspots are the only measure for preventing the further extinction and wiping off of the biodiversity from the planet as these areas poses as a viable spots for Biodiversity conservation and are some rich areas across the world housing the plethora of the faunal and floral species and hence saving and conserving these Biodiversity Hotspots is an absolute necessity essential for the survival and proper functioning of the earth’s cycle.
Also Read: What is Global Warming, Causes and Effects
She is a Conservation Biologist deeply concerned with the protection and sustainability of natural resources and wildlife. She is particularly interested in studying and addressing the loss of Biodiversity and educating the people about the same. She has a Master’s degree in Zoology with Post Graduate Diploma in Environment and Sustainable Development and another in Sustainability Sciences.