First of all, what is a biodiversity hotspot?
You might guess by the name that it’s a place on earth where biodiversity is either abundant or threatened. In fact, both are correct. To be a biodiversity hotspot, a location must meet two criteria:
- You cannot find half a percent of its plant life or 1,500 distinct species anywhere else on earth.
- 70 percent of its vegetation has been lost.
This framework was conceived by environmental scientist Norman Myers and has been used since the late 1980’s.
There are 36 areas around the world that qualify as biodiversity hotspots. Here are seven to get familiar with:
The Caribbean Islands
Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, the British and US Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, and all the other neighboring islands are home to a wide number of plants and animals that are only found in that region. The health of forests in the area are threatened by unhealthy soil and climate change, while increasing natural disasters further threaten species like the black capped petrel.
The Atlantic Forest in Brazil
The east coast of Brazil is home to a diversity of species across its mountain ranges and the surrounding forests. While the Amazon is another major home of diverse species and provides the earth with significant carbon absorption, it technically does not meet the criteria of a biodiversity hotspot. Still, these two regions make Brazil a significant country when it comes to conservation efforts. Like many of these hotspots, rural farmers contribute heavily to the ecosystem’s condition. They are key players in protecting biodiversity.
This region comprises a large geographical area. In between Western India and the coast of Vietnam are huge swaths of rich rainforests. Many indigenous communities across Myanmar and Thailand call this area home, and a large portion of them have a history of relying on the forest for their survival. The harmonious relationship between people and the forest, wildlife, and with each other is ultimately key to ending the crisis of deforestation in this area.
The 7,000-plus islands that make up the Philippines create conditions for rich biodiversity. Nearly 600 recorded bird species are indigenous, and over a third of those are only found in the Philippines. This biodiversity extends to the rich and diverse marine life in between the islands. In spite of this, deforestation has threatened the presence of a number of species. This includes the national symbol, the Philippine eagle.
The Horn of Africa
The Horn of Africa is is the protruding continental mass that wraps around the Arabian peninsula. It comprises Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia. This region is currently facing increasing desertification. Efforts to preserve forest space, particularly by the Ethiopian Church, have played a key role in protecting its remaining biodiversity. These same challenges also intensify the threat of food insecurity in this region.
Madagascar is home to some distinct succulent woodlands and a wide variety of unique animal species. Its relative isolation off the coast of Africa creates unique conditions for various species to thrive, though many are now under threat. Decreasing rainfall has been one of the greater threats to local plant life. These same vulnerabilities extend to neighboring islands in the Indian Ocean.
The California Coast
The California Coast may have enviable views and weather—along with high costs of living—but it also hosts some of the greatest number of total plant and bird species. This hotspot stretches from the northern point of Baja California, up the entire California coast, and gets wider as it moves north, including a bit of southeast Oregon. Beloved tree species include the giant sequoia and the redwood. Coastal plant communities thrive under the unique conditions of ubiquitous fog.
Many of Plant With Purpose’s partnering communities exist within these biodiversity hotspots. In order to be effective, efforts to protect these spaces must include the concerns and activities of humans in the area. To support the education and further empowerment of rural communities in these hotspots, consider becoming a Purpose Partner.