In Focus: Biodiversity Hotspots

In Focus: Biodiversity Hotspots

  • A biodiversity hotspot is a region with a high amount of biodiversity that experiences habitat loss by human activity.
  • The term “biodiversity hotspot” was coined by a British environmentalist Norman Myers in 1988.
  • For a region to qualify as a biodiversity hotspot, it must meet the following two criteria:
    • Contain at least 1,500 species of vascular plants found nowhere else on Earth (known as “endemic” species).
    • Have lost at least 70 percent of its primary native vegetation.

  • There are currently 36 recognized biodiversity hotspots in the world.

    • These are Earth’s most biologically rich—yet threatened—terrestrial regions.
    • They represent just 4% of Earth’s land surface, but they support more than half of the world’s plant species as endemicsand nearly 43% of bird, mammal, reptile and amphibianspecies as endemics.

  • Several international organizations are working in many ways to conserve these biodiversity hotspots.

Biodiversity Hotspots concerning India:

  • There are four biodiversity hotspots in and around India. These are:
    • The Himalayas
    • The Western Ghats
    • Indo-Burma region
    • Sundaland

The Himalayas:

  • The Himalayas include the entire Indian Himalayan region (and that falling in Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar).
  • Of the estimated 10,000 species of plants in the Himalaya Hotspot, about 3,160 are endemic.
  • In spite of harsh winter conditions, there are records of vascular plants occurring at some of the highest elevations on Earth.
  • About 300 mammal species have been recorded in the Himalaya, including a dozen that are endemic to the hotspot—the Endangered golden langurand Critically Endangered pygmy hogamong them.

Indo-Burma region:

  • This hotspot includes entire North-eastern India, except Assam and Andaman group of Islands (and Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and southern China).
  • More than 300 million people live in Indo-Burma, more than any other hotspot.
  • The hotspot is noteworthy for its concentration of globally threatened primates, of which 20 are endemic to the hotspot.
  • The Critically Endangered lesser one-horned rhinocerosrecently disappeared from the hotspot, and now only survives in one location in Java.

Western Ghats:

  • This hotspot includes the entire Western Ghats and Sri Lanka.
  • It is estimated that there are four thousand species of flowering plants known from the Western Ghats and 1,500 (nearly 38 percent) of these are endemic.
  • The Nilgiri Mountains are one of the most important centres of speciation for flowering plants in the Western Ghats, with 82 species restricted to this area alone.
  • Wide-ranging and flagship mammal species such as the tiger and elephant have attracted significant conservation efforts.


  • The hotspot covers a small portion of southern Thailand; nearly all of Malaysia; Singapore; Brunei; and the western half of Indonesia. The Nicobar Islands of India are also included.
  • The hotspot is one of the biologically richest regions on Earth, holding about 25,000 species of vascular plants, 60 percent of which are endemic.
  • Some 380 mammal species are found here, including two species of orangutans: the Critically Endangered Bornean orangutan, and the Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutan.
  • Other iconic species include the Endangered proboscis monkey, which lives only on Borneo, and two rhinoceros species: the Critically Endangered Javan rhino and the Critically Endangered Sumatran rhino.

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