- Program Home Page
- LIBRARY RESOURCES
- Getting Help
- Engaging Course Concepts
A biodiversity hotspot is a region with a high amount of biodiversity that experiences habitat loss by human activity. In order to qualify as a biodiversity hotspot, according to Conservation International , “a region 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.” Today, 34 hotspots have been identified around the world. While these areas once covered about 16% of the Earth’s land surface, today 86% of their habitat has been destroyed. Even though now hotspots only cover about 2% of the land, 50% of the world's vascular plants and 42% of land vertebrates are endemic to a hotspot. To get a better understanding of the distribution of biodiversity hotspots around the world, please view the following biodiversity hotspots map produced by Conservation International.
The biodiversity hotspot concept highlights the coupledness of biodiversity and humanity. The concept, first suggested in 1988 by Norman Myers, arose from growing concern among ecologists and environmentalists about the rapid loss of habitat in areas of high biodiversity and endemism. Endemism means that a species only lives in a particular region of the world, which means that if it is wiped out there, it’s lost forever. For example, the now-extinct Dodo bird was endemic to Mauritius, a small island in the Indian Ocean.
One example of a hotspot is the Irano-Anatolian region, which forms the boundary between the ecosystems of the Mediterranean Sea and the plateaus of Western Asia and includes 2,500 endemic plants. Its original extent was about 900,000 square kilometers, stretching from Turkey to Turkmenistan and Iran, but today only about 135,000 square kilometers of original vegetation are left. The most significant threats to this hotspot are large-scale irrigation projects, overgrazing, and unsustainable timber harvesting. The human population has doubled in this region since the 1970s, so even traditional livestock grazing and wood-gathering practices have put increased pressure on the region’s resources. Huge areas of swamps have been drained and converted to growing sugar beets and other crops using industrial agricultural methods. The political instability of the region and active military conflicts also undermine conservation efforts.
A Historical Perspective on Biodiversity Loss
About 99.9% of species that have ever lived on earth are now extinct, but at the same time, there are likely more species alive during the current era in geological history than at any previous time. Why is this?
Since the first cellular life appeared about 3.8 billion years ago, new life forms have been constantly evolving and some species have been going extinct. Since life on Earth is so old, most of the species that have ever lived are now gone, even if they persisted for millions of years. There have been periods of biodiversity explosions, as well as periods of mass extinctions, but generally, the trend has been toward an increase in the variety of life forms on this planet. Speciation rates (the rates of new species coming into existence) are high following mass extinction events and have been increased by the evolution of body types that allow animals to inhabit all types of habitats like deserts, soils, thermal ocean vents, and the sky. Also, the breaking up of Pangaea into separate continents has fostered an explosion in the number of species on Earth.
We should realize that humans are not responsible for most of the extinctions that have happened on Earth. At the same time, humans have been influencing biodiversity for a long time, and human-caused extinctions are not a new thing at all.
Early Anthropogenic Extinctions
During the end of the last ice age (known as the Pleistocene), about 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, many of the large mammals, birds, and reptiles, collectively known as megafauna , went extinct in North and South America. Mastodons, mammoths, giant beavers, and saber-toothed tigers, along with many other species, disappeared in a fairly short period of geologic time.
While we do not have direct evidence of what caused their extinction, most researchers believe that overharvesting of wildlife by humans played a decisive role in many extinctions. The extinctions roughly coincide with the arrival of humans into the Americas, and a similar story is apparent in Australia, although human arrival there was much earlier.
It is important to note that during this period the climate was warming rapidly (due to natural, not human causes), and vegetation was changing as a result. Therefore, humans were not the only stress that may have damaged populations of these megafauna species. On the other hand, these species had persisted through significant climate fluctuations in the past, and the major new factor when they became extinct was the presence of humans.
Another striking example of human-caused biodiversity loss from before the modern era comes from Polynesia in the southern Pacific Ocean. Humans caused the extinction of over 2000 species of birds as they colonized these tropical islands between 1000 and 3000 years ago. Among the factors causing extinction were direct harvesting, habitat alteration, and the introduction of predators like pigs and rats. Flightless birds were particularly vulnerable to human and non-human hunters, and many of them went extinct.
One important lesson to draw from these two examples is that even people whom we identify as “native” or “indigenous” to a place can cause extinctions. It can be tempting to imagine that Western civilization, capitalism, or other “modern” ideas or technologies are the root cause of biodiversity loss, but that belief is not supported by this history. It is vital that we view indigenous peoples not as somehow “one with nature” or in perfect harmony with their ecosystems, but as dynamic and diverse human cultures that have long played important roles in shaping the landscapes that they inhabit. That said, there are valuable lessons that we can learn from indigenous cultures about how to maintain functioning ecosystems and biodiversity while providing for basic human needs.
The above example of Polynesian colonialism was a precursor to the massive colonial efforts by European nations from the 1400s through the 1800s. European colonialism had massive impacts on biodiversity through the exchange of species between Europe and colonized regions, the conversion of habitat, and over-harvesting of species that led to extinction.
The transfer of plants, animals, and microbes between continents during this era is known as the “ Columbian Exchange. ” One of the most dramatic impacts of this exchange was the introduction of European diseases into Native American populations that had no immunities to them. These diseases caused declines in indigenous populations of up to 90% in some cases, crippling social systems and subsistence harvesting, altering long-established practices like burning and agriculture, and leading to large cities simply disappearing in many parts of the Americas. Because of these diseases, much of the interior regions of North and South America became much less populated than they had been for thousands of years.
The “hollowing out” of the interiors of these continents had a serious impact on the processes of colonial settlement, both in the past and today. In North America during the 1700s and 1800s, many European settlers interpreted the regions they were moving into as an “untouched wilderness,” when, in many cases, those areas had a long history of habitation and alteration by Native American groups.
In South America, the impacts of European diseases are perhaps even more evident today. We don’t have precise data on population levels in the Amazon River Basin prior to European settlement, but the best estimates are that about 10 million people lived in the region. There were cities, villages, and intensive agricultural areas, as was true of many other biologically rich places in the Western Hemisphere at that time. During the 1600s and 1700s, diseases brought by European explorers wiped out 90% of Amazon residents, leaving less than one million. During the subsequent centuries, descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese colonists have built large cities like Rio de Janeiro, Lima, and São Paulo along the coasts, while the population of the interior Amazon region remains low. The world map of population distribution below shows that South America remains a “hollow continent” today.
In this light, we should not think of the Amazon rainforest as a “virgin wilderness,” but rather as a long-humanized landscape that has only recently grown back into a wild state. Without the influence of European diseases, South America’s demographics and environments would look much different. This is a reminder that we can never ignore history when trying to understand complex human-environment systems.
European colonialism also led to habitat modifications on an unprecedented scale, which had serious negative impacts on biodiversity. One key example is deforestation in North America. Native Americans made noticeable alterations to the temperate forests of North America through burning the understory and clearing patches of forest to grow maize and other crops, but their modifications are eclipsed by the systematic destruction of forests by European colonists.
Consider This: Deforestation in the United States
Deforestation was driven largely by a desire for cleared agricultural land, but also by the needs of manufacturing industries. In Pennsylvania (literally “Penn’s Woods”), much of the forest was cleared and turned into charcoal to fuel iron furnaces. While today much of Pennsylvania has reforested, during the past 200 years almost every forest in the state has been cleared, some multiple times. While biodiversity has benefited from forest regrowth in many places in North America, often new forests do not have the same level of biodiversity as their predecessors, and some areas remain agricultural lands or urban developments with low levels of biodiversity.
Consider the map of the history of deforestation in the United States below. The map focuses on areas of “virgin forests,” otherwise known as old-growth or primary forest, and so it doesn’t show us where forests have grown back. Nevertheless, it’s useful because it mirrors a process that is going on today: the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in South America. While many people in the U.S. bemoan the destruction of the Amazon today, that deforestation follows in the footsteps of the U.S., Europe, and other “developed” nations. We should be careful not to point fingers of blame at developing countries in the tropics as the main causes of deforestation because that would ignore our own history.
One of the most important lessons that we should learn from biodiversity hotspots is that biodiversity cannot be fully understood without considering factors like human population, agricultural techniques, military activities, and political systems. Biodiversity is entangled with human influences. At the same time, human economic, social, and political systems cannot be understood outside the context of the diverse life forms that support our existence.
Targeted investment in nature’s most important places
Why are biodiversity hotspots important?
There are places on Earth that are both biologically rich — and deeply threatened. For our own sake, we must work to protect them.
Species are the building blocks of Earth's life-support systems. We all depend on them.
But our planet’s “biodiversity,” the vast array of life on Earth, faces a crisis of historic proportions. Development, urbanization, pollution, disease — they’re all wreaking havoc on the tree of life. Today, species are going extinct at the fastest rate since the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.
To stem this crisis, we must protect the places where biodiversity lives. But species aren’t evenly distributed around the planet. Certain areas have large numbers of endemic species — those found nowhere else. Many of these are heavily threatened by habitat loss and other human activities. These areas are the biodiversity hotspots , 36 regions where success in conserving species can have an enormous impact in securing our global biodiversity.
The forests and other remnant habitats in hotspots represent just 2.5% of Earth’s land surface. But you’d be hard-pressed to find another 2.5% of the planet that’s more important.
What are biodiversity hotspots?
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.
What is a biodiversity hotspot?
Around the world, 36 areas qualify as hotspots. Their intact habitats represent just 2.5% 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 species as endemics.
Map: Where are the world's biodiversity hotspots?
Why Do Biodiversity Hotspots Matter?
Conservation International was a pioneer in defining and promoting the concept of hotspots. In 1989, just one year after scientist Norman Myers wrote the paper that introduced the hotspots concept, Conservation International adopted the idea of protecting these incredible places as the guiding principle of our investments. For nearly two decades thereafter, hotspots were the blueprint for our work.
Today, our mission has expanded beyond the protection of hotspots. We recognize that it is not enough to protect species and places; for humanity to survive and thrive, the protection of nature must be a fundamental part of every human society.
Yet the hotspots remain important in our work for two important reasons:
- Biodiversity underpins all life on Earth. Without species, there would be no air to breathe, no food to eat, no water to drink. There would be no human society at all. And as the places on Earth where the most biodiversity is under the most threat, hotspots are critical to human survival.
- The map of hotspots overlaps extraordinarily well with the map of the natural places that most benefit people. That’s because hotspots are among the richest and most important ecosystems in the world — and they are home to many vulnerable populations who are directly dependent on nature to survive. By one estimate, despite comprising 2.5% of Earth’s land surface, the forests, wetlands and other ecosystems in hotspots account for 35% of the “ecosystem services” that vulnerable human populations depend on.
From Indonesia to Madagascar, Brazil to southeast Asia, a majority of Conservation International’s global field offices are located in or near biodiversity hotspots. We continue to work to protect these places for the benefit of people around the world.
What’s more, Conservation International is an investor in the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund . CEPF is an alliance of leading conservation donors that provides grants to nonprofit and private-sector organizations that are working to protect the biodiversity hotspots and improve human well-being.
To explore the world’s 36 hotspots , access GIS data and learn more about what CEPF and partners are doing to protect these vital places, visit CEPF’s website at the link below.
Visit CEPF website
BREAKING CONSERVATION NEWS
Get the latest updates on breaking conservation news from around the world—delivered to your inbox.
Thank you! We will be in touch.
When you donate to Conservation International, you protect the nature we can’t live without.
More about our work
How we do this work:
Innovations in science Innovations in finance Partnering with communities Working with governments Engaging with corporations
Principles that guide our work:
Diversity, equity and inclusion Respecting human rights Gender equality Science-based restoration
America's Wild Animals Are Counting On You!
Get alerts & updates.
What are Biodiversity Hotspots?
Biodiversity hotspots are regions that contain a high level of species diversity, many endemic species (species not found anywhere else in the world) and a significant number of threatened or endangered species. The concept of biodiversity hotspots was first introduced in the late 1980s and since then, it has been used as a tool for identifying areas of high conservation priority.
The United States is home to several biodiversity hotspots that are crucial for the conservation of global biodiversity, including:
Southern Appalachians: The Southern Appalachian Mountains are one of the most biodiverse temperate regions on the continent. They’re known for their rich hardwood forests, which contain a greater diversity of tree species than in the whole of Europe. These forests are inhabited by a stunning array of plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. The freshwater ecosystems within this region harbor significant numbers of freshwater fish and endangered mussels. These streams and forests are also home to the highest level of salamander diversity in the world including North America’s largest salamander, the Eastern Hellbender. The mountains are also an important migratory corridor for birds and provide essential habitats for imperiled bats. From green salamanders, Carolina Northern flying squirrels, spruce-fir moss spiders, Appalachian elktoe mussels, bog turtles, cerulean warblers and more, this region is a stronghold for biodiversity.
Sky Islands: These are series of mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico that are isolated from one another by large swathes of lowland deserts. Each mountain range is like an "island" of habitat, surrounded by a "sea" of desert. The Sky Islands contain more than 4,000 plant species, over 100 species of mammals and over 350 species of birds. There are at least 41 endangered species in the Sky Islands region, including the jaguar, ocelot and Mexican gray wolf. One of the major threats to the Sky Islands region is the construction of the U.S. border wall, which seriously disrupts the habitats and migrations of many animals in this region.
California: California is a global biodiversity hotspot. It not only has the highest numbers of species of any state in the U.S., but it has the most endemic species. Unfortunately, it also has the most imperiled biodiversity in the contiguous U.S.: more than 30% of California’s species are threatened with extinction, including the California condor and the San Joaquin kit fox. The California coastal ranges, Channel Islands, Mojave Desert and Sierra Nevada are four particular hotspots for biodiversity within the Golden State.
Florida: One particularly important biodiversity hotspot in Florida is the Everglades, a vast wetland ecosystem that stretches from central Florida to the southern tip of the state. It is home to an incredible diversity of plants and animals, including the Florida panther, American crocodile and the Florida manatee. The wetland ecosystem also supports a diverse range of birdlife, including the great egret, roseate spoonbill and the snail kite. Other areas of importance include the Florida Keys, the home to the endangered Key deer, and the Florida panhandle, which is inhabited by threatened species such as the gopher tortoise, red-cockaded woodpecker, grey bat, Eastern indigo snake, beach mice and the snowy plover. The waters off Florida are also extremely biodiverse, with coral reefs and species such as sea turtles and Rice’s whale—the most endangered mammal species in the U.S. with less than 50 animals left.
Your support ensures our expert team of scientists, lawyers, advocates and activists have the resources needed to demand action and protection for wildlife across the nation.
- Wild Features
View the discussion thread.
Wildlife & Wild Places
California's Central Valley
From the blog.
Give a Tooting-Hoot About Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owls
What the Buffalo Mean to the Tribes of Fort Peck
Saving Manatees Close to Home, Close to Heart
Follow defenders of wildlife.
Jump to navigation
Protecting Biodiversity by Supporting People
- Civil Society
- Biodiversity Hotspots
- Hotspots Defined
- Ecosystem Profile Defined
- Explore the Hotspots
- Before You Apply
- How to Apply
- Life Cycle of a Grant
- Grantee Projects
- See Open Calls for Proposals
- Global Goals
- CEPF and the SDGs
- CEPF and Climate Change
- CEPF and the CBD
- Monitoring and Evaluation
- See how we’re making a difference
- Our History
- Impact and Annual Reports
CEPF is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement , Conservation International , the European Union , the Global Environment Facility , the Government of Japan and the World Bank .
Or use Google Translate to translate the English site to your language:
Biodiversity Hotspots Defined
In this Section:
What is a biodiversity hotspot?
There are currently 36 recognized biodiversity hotspots . These are Earth’s most biologically rich—yet threatened—terrestrial regions.
To qualify as a biodiversity hotspot, an area must meet two strict 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.
Many of the biodiversity hotspots exceed the two criteria. For example, both the Sundaland Hotspot in Southeast Asia and the Tropical Andes Hotspot in South America have about 15,000 endemic plant species. The loss of vegetation in some hotspots has reached a startling 95 percent.
Why does CEPF work only in biodiversity hotspots?
The extinction crisis is vast, and conservation funds are limited, so focus is a critical element of CEPF's approach. Biodiversity hotspots are home to thousands of irreplaceable species that are facing multiple, urgent threats. These are places where CEPF's relatively small investments can help move the needle in a meaningful way toward sustainable conservation.
Who lives in the biodiversity hotspots?
The 36 biodiversity hotspots are home to around 2 billion people, including some of the world's poorest, many of whom rely directly on healthy ecosystems for their livelihood and well-being. The hotspots provide crucial ecosystem services for human life, such as provision of clean water, pollination and climate regulation.
These remarkable regions also hold some of the highest human population densities on the planet, but the relationship between people and biodiversity is not simply one where more people lead to greater impacts on biodiversity. Much of human-biodiversity impacts lies not in human density but rather in human activity.
Conservation in the hotspots promotes sustainable management of these essential natural resources and supports economic growth, which also reduces drivers of violent conflict.
CEPF works with civil society in the hotspots to protect biodiversity.
How did the concept of biodiversity hotspots begin?
In 1988, British ecologist Norman Myers published a seminal paper identifying 10 tropical forest “hotspots.” These regions were characterized both by exceptional levels of plant endemism and serious levels of habitat loss.
Conservation International, one of CEPF's global donor organizations , adopted Myers’ hotspots as its institutional blueprint in 1989. In 1996, the organization made the decision to undertake a reassessment of the hotspots concept, including an examination of whether key areas had been overlooked. Three years later an extensive global review was undertaken, which introduced quantitative thresholds for the designation of biodiversity hotspots and resulted in the designation of 25.
In 2005, an additional analysis brought the total number of biodiversity hotspots to 34, based on the work of nearly 400 specialists.
In 2011, the Forests of East Australia was identified as the 35th hotspot by a team of researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) working with Conservation International.
In February 2016, the North American Coastal Plain was recognized as meeting the criteria and became the Earth's 36th hotspot. Read the announcement.
- Map (no text)
- Map (English labels)
Explore the world's biodiversity hotspots
- Environmental Studies Tutorial
- Environmental Studies - Home
- Classification of Ecosystem
- Functions Of Ecosystem
- Ecological Pyramid
- Energy Flow in Ecosystem
- Natural Resources
- Water Resources
- Mineral Resources
- Land Resources
- Energy Resources
- Threats to Biodiversity
- Conversation of Biodiversity
- Pollution & Control
- Air Pollution
- Water Pollution
- Noise Pollution
- Soil Pollution
- Solid Waste Management
- Hazardous Waste Management
- Water Waste Management
- Global Environmental Problems
- Ozone Depletion
- Deforestation & Desertification
- International Protocols
- Policy & Legislation
- Air,Water & Forest Acts
- Environmental Impact Assessment
- Towards Sustainable Future
- Environmental Studies Resources
- Environmental Studies - Quick Guide
- Environmental Studies - Resources
- Environmental Studies - Discussion
- Selected Reading
- UPSC IAS Exams Notes
- Developer's Best Practices
- Questions and Answers
- Effective Resume Writing
- HR Interview Questions
- Computer Glossary
The Earth’s biodiversity is evenly distributed across its surface. There are over a thousand major eco-regions in the world. It is estimated that there are about 200 richest, rarest and most distinctive natural areas in the world. These are referred to as the Global 200.
Hotspots of biodiversity refer to bio-geographic regions where significant levels of biodiversity with richness and unusual concentration of endemic species are found, however, they are threatened with mindless exploitation and destruction.
A biodiversity is termed as a hotspot if −
It has at least 1,500 vascular plants as endemic.
It must be threatened or under threat of destruction to a considerable extent.
Across the world, about 35 areas are marked as hotspots of biodiversity and they represent 2.3 percent of the Earth’s land surface but they support more than half of the world’s endemic plant species and almost half of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians as endemic.
List of Biodiversity Hotspots in the World
North and Central America − California Floristic Province, Madrean pine-oak woodlands, Mesoamerica
The Caribbean − Caribbean Islands
South America − Atlantic Forest, Cerrado, Chilean Winter Rainfall-Valdivian Forests, Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena, Tropical Andes
Europe − Mediterranean Basin
Africa − Cape Floristic Region, Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa, Eastern Afromontane, Guinean Forests of West Africa; Horn of Africa; Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands; Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany; Succulent Karoo
Central Asia − Mountains of Central Asia
South Asia − Eastern Himalaya, Nepal; Indo-Burma, India and Myanmar; Western Ghats, India; Sri Lanka
South East Asia and Asia-Pacific − East Melanesian Islands; New Caledonia; New Zealand; Philippines; Polynesia-Micronesia; Southwest Australia; Sundaland; Wallacea
East Asia − Japan; Mountains of Southwest China
West Asia − Caucasus; Irano-Anatolian
About 1.8 million species are known to mankind at present. Scientists, however, have estimated that the number of species of plants and animals on the earth can go up to 20 billion. It means a majority of species still remain undiscovered.
World’s most prolific bio-rich nations are in the south. On the other hand, the majority of the countries capable of exploiting biodiversity are the developed Northern countries. These countries have very low level of biodiversity.
Developed nations want to consider biodiversity as ‘global resources’. However, nations rich in biodiversity like India don’t want to compromise their sovereignty over their biological diversity unless there is a revolutionary change in global thinking about sharing of all types of natural resources such as rare minerals as uranium, oil, or even intellectual and technological resources.
India is home to rich biodiversity. Countries with diversities higher than India are located in South America such as Brazil, and South East India countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.
Biological diversities are now being increasingly appreciated as being of unimaginable value. International initiatives such as World Heritage Convention, Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) aims for the protection and support of biologically rich natural areas and address threatened species and habitats to protect and restore biological systems.
Convention in the Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) is intended to reduce the utilization of endangered plants and animals by controlling trade in their products and in pet trade.
India as a Mega Diversity Region
A mega diversity region or country is one that harbors majority of the Earth’s species and is therefore considered extremely bio-diverse. India is rich in biodiversity from north to south and from east to west. Geological events in the landmass of India, different climatic regions across the country and its special geographical position between a couple of distinct biological evolution and radiation of species are responsible for India’s rich and varied biodiversity.
India is one among the top 10 countries with rich biodiversity and one among the 12 Mega biodiversity regions in the world. Around 18 biosphere reserves have been set up in India.
India is home to 350 different mammals (rated highest in the world), 1, 200 species of birds, 453 species of reptiles and 45, 000 plant species. India is home to 50, 000 known species of insects, that include 13, 000 butterflies and moths. It is estimated that the number of unnamed species could be much higher than the existing number.
More than 18 percent of Indian plants are endemic (native to a particular region) to the country and found nowhere else in the world.
India has 27 indigenous breeds of cattle, 40 breeds of sheep, 22 breeds of goats and 8 breeds of buffaloes.
Among the amphibians found in India, 62 percent are unique to this country. High endemism has also been recorded in various flowering plants, insects, marine worms, centipedes, mayflies, and fresh water sponges.
Apart of noticeable diversity in Indian wild plants and animals, there is also a great diversity of cultivated crops and breeds of domestic livestock. The traditional cultivars (a plant variety that has been produced in cultivation by selective breeding) include about 50,000 varieties of rice and a number of cereals, vegetables, and fruits. The highest diversity of cultivars is found concentrated in the high rainfall areas of Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, Northern Himalayas. and North-Eastern hills.
Kickstart Your Career
Get certified by completing the course
- IAS Preparation
- UPSC Preparation Strategy
Biodiversity Hotspots in India - Himalayas, Indo-Burma, Western Ghats & Sundaland
Biodiversity is referred to as the variation of plant and animal species in a particular habitat. Species evenness and species richness form the major components of biodiversity.
Biodiversity Hotspots in India – UPSC GS-III Notes Download PDF Here
India is known for its rich biodiversity and has around 24.46% of the geographical area covered by forests and trees.
Coined by Norman Myers, the term “Biodiversity hotspots” can be defined as the regions which are known for their high species richness and endemism.
Biodiversity hotspots in India are an important topic for the IAS Exam and are under UPSC Mains GS-III syllabus. This article will discuss the major biodiversity hotspots in India. Aspirants will also find the list of IUCN endangered species. Aspirants can also download the notes PDF at the end of the article.
As a topic under the UPSC CSE Syllabus , biodiversity holds great importance. Aspirants must go through the aspects discussed in detail further below in this article.
Along with Biodiversity, one may also read:
Biodiversity Hotspots – 2 Main Qualifying Criteria
According to Conservation International, a region must fulfill the following two criteria to qualify as a hotspot:
- The region should have at least 1500 species of vascular plants i.e., it should have a high degree of endemism.
- It must contain 30% (or less) of its original habitat, i.e. it must be threatened.
Following the criteria must for an area to be declared as Biodiversity Hotspot, there are major four biodiversity hotspots in India:
- Indo-Burma Region
The Western Ghats
Considered the highest in the world, the Himalayas (overall) comprises North-East India, Bhutan, Central and Eastern parts of Nepal. This region (NE Himalayas) holds a record of having 163 endangered species which includes the Wild Asian Water Buffalo, One-horned Rhino; and as many as 10,000 plant species, of which 3160 are endemic. This mountain range covers nearly 750,000 km 2 .
Indo – Burma Region
The Indo-Burma Region is stretched over a distance of 2,373,000 km². In the last 12 years, 6 large mammal species have been discovered in this region: the Large-antlered Muntjac, the Annamite Muntjac, the Grey-shanked Douc, the Annamite Striped Rabbit, the Leaf Deer, and the Saola.
This hotspot is also known for the endemic freshwater turtle species, most of which are threatened with extinction, due to over-harvesting and extensive habitat loss. There are also 1,300 different bird species, including the threatened White-eared Night-heron, the Grey-crowned Crocias, and the Orange-necked Partridge.
The Western Ghats are present along the western edge of peninsular India and covers most of the deciduous forests and rain forests. As per UNESCO, it is home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species. Originally, the vegetation in this region was spread over 190,000 km 2 but has been now reduced to 43,000 km 2 . The region is also known for the globally threatened flora and fauna represented by 229 plant species, 31 mammal species, 15 bird species, 43 amphibian species, 5 reptile species and 1 fish species. UNESCO mentions that “Of the total 325 globally threatened species in the Western Ghats, 129 are classified as Vulnerable, 145 as Endangered and 51 as Critically Endangered.”
Knowing in detail about the Western Ghats will be helpful for the aspirants for the Geography preparation.
The Sundaland hotspot lies in South-East Asia and covers Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia. In the year 2013, the Sundaland was declared as a World Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations. This region is famous for its rich terrestrial and marine ecosystem. Sundaland is one of the biologically richest hotspots in the world which comprises 25,000 species of vascular plants, of which 15,000 are found only in this region.
Why are Biodiversity Hotspots important?
Biodiversity hotspots are critical for a healthy ecosystem. Biodiversity is the foundation of all life on Earth. There would be no air to breathe, no food to eat, and no water to drink if there were no species. There would be no such thing as human society. The coexistence of living and natural resources is essential for the entire ecological life support system.
Biodiversity in India – Flora, and Fauna
India is famous for its rich flora and fauna. India houses over 500 species of mammals, more than 200 species of birds, and 30,000 different species of insects. The Zoological Survey of India which is headquartered in Kolkata is responsible for surveying the faunal resources of India.
India has a diverse climate, topology, and habitat are known to have the richest flora in the world with over 18000 species of flowering plants. These plant species constitute 6-7% of the world’s plant species. There are 8 main floristic regions in India- the Western and the Eastern Himalayas , Indus and Ganges, Assam, the Deccan, Malabar, and the Andaman Islands which is home to 3000 Indian plant species. The forests in India cover ranges from the tropical rainforest including Andaman, Western Ghats, and northeast India to the coniferous forests of the Himalayas. The deciduous forests can be found in the eastern, central, and southern parts of India.
Endangered Species of India
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, “India accounts for 7-8% of all recorded species, including over 45,000 species of plants and 91,000 species of animals. But with the rapid loss of biodiversity, many species are becoming extinct or at risk of becoming critically endangered. The species that are at risk of extinction due to the sudden decrease in their population and habitat are known as endangered species.
The top 5 endangered species (Flora and Fauna) in India are listed in the table below:
Aspirants may know that NCERTs books on Geography give information on Biodiversity in India, hence to get NCERT Notes on Biodiversity , they may check the linked article.
What is the IUCN Red List?
Founded in 1964, the IUCN Red List also known as the Red Data List evaluates the biological species in the world which are at the risk of extinction. IUCN aims to focus on the conservation of the world’s species to reduce species extinction. More than 77,300 species have been assessed on the IUCN Red List.
The IUCN Red List can be divided into the following 9 categories:
- Extinct (EX) – No known individuals remaining.
- Extinct in the wild (EW) – Known only to survive in captivity, or as a naturalized population outside its historic range.
- Critically endangered (CR) – Extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
- Endangered (EN) – High risk of extinction in the wild.
- Vulnerable (VU) – High risk of endangerment in the wild.
- Near threatened (NT) – Likely to become endangered shortly.
- Least concern (LC) – Lowest risk. Does not qualify for a more at-risk category. Widespread and abundant taxa are included in this category.
- Data deficient (DD) – Not enough data to assess its risk of extinction.
- Not evaluated (NE) – Has not yet been evaluated against the criteria
To know about the critically endangered species of India as per IUCN Red List refer to the linked article.
The status of animals and their different species as per IUCN contributes to a few objective type questions in the IAS prelims exam annually. Thus, candidates must study the same, keeping the UPSC exam into consideration.
Tiger Conservation in India
Since a large number of the tiger population in India is entering into the list of endangered species, the conservation of tigers has become a crucial point in India. One of the initiatives taken by the Government of India for the protection of the tigers is the ‘Project Tiger’. This project was launched in April 1973 and was administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
Project Tiger aims at protecting the tiger population in India, preventing them from the risk of extinction and preserving areas of biological importance as a natural heritage.
The list of major threats to Tiger Population are:
- Man-animal conflict
- Hunting, poaching and illegal trade
- Habitat and loss of prey species
It is due to this initiative that India’s tiger population has risen to 2,967 in 2018 within 12 years. As per the latest data, the largest survey conducted by the government to map the Tiger Population in India till date was over 381,400 km of forested habitats across 20 states.
To know more about Tiger Conservation & Tiger Reserves in India , refer to the linked article.
Aspirants preparing for UPSC civil service exam can visit the below-given links for more information on actions taken at the national level and conventions at the global level to tackle the problem and mitigate the effects of climate change.
Also, get updated with the UPSC Mains Syllabus as descriptive answers based on biodiversity, developments, environment and ecology can be asked in the written paper.
Frequently Asked Questions related to Biodiversity Hotspots
What is biodiversity hotspot, how many biodiversity hotspots are there in the world, which is the biodiversity hotspot in india, what are things that affect biodiversity, what is a healthy biodiversity, what are examples of hotspots, what is the hotspot region, why is california a biodiversity hotspot.
Leave a Comment Cancel reply
Your Mobile number and Email id will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Request OTP on Voice Call
Post My Comment
IAS 2024 - Your dream can come true!
Download the ultimate guide to upsc cse preparation.
- Share Share
Register with BYJU'S & Download Free PDFs
Register with byju's & watch live videos.