- Biodiversity hotspots are a method to identify those regions of the world where attention is needed to address biodiversity loss and to guide investments in conservation.
- The idea was first developed by Norman Myers in 1988 to identify tropical forest ‘hotspots’ characterized both by exceptional levels of plant endemism and serious habitat loss, which he then expanded to a more global scope.
- Conservation International adopted Myers’ hotspots as its institutional blueprint in 1989, and in 1999, the organization undertook an extensive global review which introduced quantitative thresholds for the designation of biodiversity hotspots.
- A reworking of the hotspots analysis in 2004 resulted in the system in place today.
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 or lost more than 70% its primary vegetation.
- Around the world, 35 areas qualify as hotspots.
- They represent just 2.3% 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
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