Biodiversity Hotspots in India
GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOTS WITH SPECIAL EMPHASIS ON INDIAN HOTSPOTS
The British biologist Norman Myers coined the term "biodiversity hotspot" in 1988 as a biogeographic region characterized both by exceptional levels of plant endemism and by serious levels of habitat loss. In 1990 Myers added a further eight hotspots, including four Mediterranean-type ecosystems. Conservation International (CI) adopted Myers’ hotspots as its institutional blueprint in 1989, and in 1996, the organization made the decision to undertake a reassessment of the hotspots concept. Three years later an extensive global review was undertaken, which introduced quantitative thresholds for the designation of biodiversity hotspots.
According to CI, to qualify as a hotspot a region must meet two strict criteria: it must contain at least 1,500 species of vascular plants (> 0.5% of the world’s total) as endemics, and it has to have lost at least 70% of its original habitat. In 1999, CI identified 25 biodiversity hotspots in the book “Hotspots: Earth’s Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Terrestrial Ecoregions”.
Collectively, these areas held as endemics about 44% of the world’s plants and 35% of terrestrial vertebrates in an area that formerly covered only 11.8% of the planet’s land surface. The habitat extent of this land area had been reduced by 87.8% of its original extent, such that this wealth of biodiversity was restricted to only 1.4% of Earth’s land surface. In 2005 CI published an updated titled “Hotspots Revisited: Earth's Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Terrestrial Ecoregions”.
GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOTS: WORLD
A total of 8 Hotspots in African continent hold a diversity of plant and animal life, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth.
Composed of large land areas as well as islands dotting the Pacific seas, these 14 Hotspots represent important biodiversity.
EUROPE AND CENTRAL ASIA
From the Mediterranean Basin to the Mountains of Central Asia, these four Hotspots are unique in their diversity.
NORTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA
North and Central America play host to thousands of acres of important habitat.
From Brazil's Cerrado to the Tropical Andes, South America has some of the richest and most diverse life on Earth.
Life on Earth faces a crisis of historical and planetary proportions. Unsustainable consumption in many northern countries and crushing poverty in the tropics are destroying wild nature. Biodiversity is besieged. Extinction is the gravest aspect of the biodiversity crisis: it is irreversible. While extinction is a natural process, human impacts have elevated the rate of extinction by at least a thousand, possibly several thousand, times the natural rate. Mass extinctions of this magnitude have only occurred five times in the history of our planet; the last brought the end of the dinosaur age. In a world where conservation budgets are insufficient given the number of species threatened with extinction, identifying conservation priorities is crucial.
The biodiversity hotspots hold especially high numbers of endemic species, yet their combined area of remaining habitat covers only 2.3% of the Earth's land surface. Each hotspot faces extreme threats and has already lost at least 70% of its original natural vegetation. Over 50% of the world’s plant species and 42% of all terrestrial vertebrate species are endemic to the 35 biodiversity hotspots.
World’s 35 Biodiversity Hotspots
The map shows 34 biodiversity hotspots which cover 2.3% of the Earth's land surface, yet more than 50% of the world’s plant species and 42% of all terrestrial vertebrate species are endemic to these areas (Conservation International). These are the areas which are suffering biodiversity loss and where attention is needed.
GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOTS: ASIA-PACIFIC
1. East Melanesian Islands
Once largely intact, the 1,600 East Melanesian Islands are now a hotspot due, sadly, to accelerating levels of habitat loss.
The Himalaya Hotspot is home to the world’s highest mountains, including Mt. Everest.
Encompassing more than 2 million km² of tropical Asia, Indo-Burma is still revealing its biological treasures.
The islands that make up the Japanese Archipelago stretch from the humid subtropics in the south to the boreal zone in the north, resulting in a wide variety of climates and ecosystems.
5. Mountains of Southwest China
With dramatic variations in climate and topography, the Mountains of Southwest China support a wide array of habitats including the most endemic-rich temperate flora in the world.
6. New Caledonia
An island the size of New Jersey in the South Pacific Ocean, New Caledonia is the home of no less than five endemic plant families.
7. New Zealand
A mountainous archipelago once dominated by temperate rainforests, New Zealand harbors extraordinary levels of endemic species.
More than 7,100 islands fall within the borders of the Philippines hotspot, identified as one of the world’s biologically richest countries.
Comprising 4,500 islands stretched across the southern Pacific Ocean, the Polynesia-Micronesia hotspot is the epicenter of the current global extinction crisis.
10. Southwest Australia
The forest, woodlands, shrublands, and heath of Southwest Australia are characterized by high endemism among plants and reptiles.
11. Forests of Eastern Australia
Forests of East Australia Hotspot consists of a discontinuous coastal stretch along the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales, extending inland and further west, although it includes the New England Tablelands and the Great Dividing Range. This region contains more than 1500 endemic vascular plants.
The spectacular flora and fauna of the Sundaland Hotspot are succumbing to the explosive growth of industrial forestry in these islands.
The flora and fauna of Wallacea are so varied that every island in this hotspot needs secure protected areas to preserve the region’s biodiversity.
14. Western Ghats and Sri Lanka
Faced with tremendous population pressure, the forests of the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka have been dramatically impacted by the demands for timber and agricultural land.
BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOTS IN INDIA
- Himalaya: Includes the entire Indian Himalayan region (and that falling in Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar)
- Indo-Burma: Includes entire North-eastern India, except Assam and Andaman group of Islands (and Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and southern China)
- Sundalands: Includes Nicobar group of Islands (and Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Philippines)
- Western Ghats and Sri Lanka: Includes entire Western Ghats (and Sri Lanka)
Source: Conservation International: www.conservation.org; www.cepf.net
Biodiversity Hotspots in India