A biodiversity hotspot is an area with unusual concentration of species, many of which are endemic. It is marked by serious threat to its biodiversity by humans. The concept was given in 1988 by Norman Myers.
Qualification for Biodiversity Hotspot
To qualify as a hotspot, a region must meet two strict criteria:
- Endemism: it must contain at least 1,500 species of vascular plants (> 0.5 percent of the world’s total) as endemics, and
- Loss of Habitat: it has to have lost at least 70 percent of its original habitat.
Accordingly, 34 biodiversity hotspots have been so far identified. Collectively, the Biodiversity hotspots support 60% of world’s plant and animal species with a high share of endemics and cover around 2.5% of Earth’s land surface.
List of Biodiversity Hotspots
- 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
What Biodiversity Hotspots don’t do?
The Biodiversity Hotspots are often criticized on the following arguments
- Do not adequately represent other forms of species richness (e.g. total species richness or threatened species richness).
- Do not adequately represent taxa other than vascular plants (e.g. vertebrates, or fungi).
- Do not protect smaller scale richness hotspots.
- Do not make allowances for changing land use patterns. Hotspots represent regions that have experienced considerable habitat loss, but this does not mean they are experiencing ongoing habitat loss. On the other hand, regions that are relatively intact (e.g. the Amazon Basin) have experienced relatively little land loss, but are currently losing habitat at tremendous rates.
- Do not protect ecosystem services
- Do not consider phylogenetic diversity.
Biodiversity Hotspots in India
India shares its territories into three biodiversity hotspots viz. Eastern Himalaya, Western Ghats and Indo-Burma. Out of them, Eastern Himalaya and Western Ghats are mostly located within India’s territory. In the Indo-Burma Biodiversity hotspot, India shares only a small part in north East India.
The Indo-Burma Biodiversity hotspot includes parts of northeastern India, Bangladesh and Malaysia as shown in the below map.
However, Biodiversity Hotspots also work as funding regions for Conservation International for its Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). The Northeastern India is included in a separate CEPF funding region (Eastern Himalayas Biodiversity Hotspot), while Bangladesh and Malaysia only extend marginally into the Indo-Burma hotspot. For this purpose, officially, the Indo-Burma Hotspot is defined as all non-marine parts of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam plus some parts of southern China.
This is the reason that India has only two biodiversity hotspots viz. Eastern Himalayas and Western Ghats.
This article is a part of our content of Integrated UPSC /IAS General Studies - Target 2018 membership programme.