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Global changes, from habitat loss and invasive species to anthropogenic climate change, have initiated the sixth great mass extinction event in Earth’s history. As species become threatened and vanish, so too do the broader ecosystems and myriad benefits to human well-being that depend upon biodiversity. Bringing an end to global biodiversity loss requires that limited available resources be guided to those regions that need it most. The biodiversity hotspots do this based on the conservation planning principles of irreplaceability and vulnerability. Here, we review the development of the hotspots over the past two decades and present an analysis of their biodiversity, updated to the current set of 35 regions. We then discuss past and future efforts needed to conserve them, sustaining their fundamental role both as the home of a substantial fraction of global biodiversity and as the ultimate source of many ecosystem services upon which humanity depends.
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Chapter 1
Global Biodiversity Conservation:
The Critical Role of Hotspots
Russell A. Mittermeier, Will R. Turner, Frank W. Larsen,
Thomas M. Brooks, and Claude Gascon
Abstract Global changes, from habitat loss and invasive species to anthropogenic
climate change, have initiated the sixth great mass extinction event in Earth’s
history. As species become threatened and vanish, so too do the broader ecosystems
and myriad benefits to human well-being that depend upon biodiversity. Bringing
an end to global biodiversity loss requires that limited available resources be guided
to those regions that need it most. The biodiversity hotspots do thi s based on the
conservation planning principles of irreplaceability and vulnerability. Here, we
review the development of the hotspots over the past two decades and present an
analysis of their biodiversity, updated to the current set of 35 regions. We then
discuss past and future efforts needed to conserve them, sustaining their fundamen-
tal role both as the home of a substantial fraction of global biodiversity and as the
ultimate source of many ecosystem services upon which humanity depends.
1.1 Introduction
Earth’s biodiversity is in trouble. The combination of unsustainable consumption in
developed countries and persistent poverty in developing nations is destroyi ng
the natural world. Wild lands continue to suffer widespread incursions from
R.A. Mittermeier (*) W.R. Turner F.W. Larsen
Conservation International, 2011 Crystal Dr. Ste 500, Arlington, VA 22202, USA
T.M. Brooks
NatureServe, Arlington, VA 22209, USA
World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), University of the Philippines Los Ban
os, Laguna 4031,
School of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS 7001,
C. Gascon
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Washington, DC 20005, USA
F.E. Zachos and J.C. Habel (eds.), Biodiversity Hotspots,
DOI 10.1007/978-3-642-20992-5_1,
Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011
agricultural expansion, urbanization, and industrial development, overexploitation
threatens the viability of wild populations, invasive species wreak havoc on
ecosystems, chemical pollution alters biochemical processes in the soil, air, and
water, and rapidly spreading diseases jeopardize entire branches of the tree of life
(Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005; Vitousek et al. 1997; Wake and
Vredenburg 2008). As these threats continue unabated, the impacts of climate
change multiply. Changing precipitation and temperature, rising and acidifying
oceans, and climate-driven habitat loss will disrupt ecological processes, test
species’ physiological tolerances, turn forests to deserts, and drive desperate
human populations toward further environmental degradation (Turner et al. 2010).
Extinction is the gravest consequence of the biodiversity crisis, since it is
irreversible. Human activities have elevated the rate of species extinctions to a
thousand or more times the natural background rate (Pimm et al. 1995). What are the
consequences of this loss? Most obvious among them may be the lost opportunity
for future resource use. Scientists have discovered a mere fraction of Earth’s species
(perhaps fewer than 10%, or even 1%) and understood the biology of even fewer
(Novotny et al. 2002). As species vanish, so too does the health security of every
human. Earth’s species are a vast genetic storehouse that may harbor a cure for
cancer, malaria, or the next new pathogen cures waiting to be discovered.
Compounds initially derived from wild species account for more than half of all
commercial medicines even more in developing nations (Chivian and Bernstein
2008). Natural forms, processes, and ecosystems provide bluepri nts and inspira-
tion for a growing array of new materials, energy sources, hi-tech devices, and
other innovations (Benyus 2009). The current loss of species has been compared
to burning down the world’s libraries without knowing the content of 90% or
more of the books. With loss of species, we lose the ultimate source of our crops
and the genes we use to improve agricultural resilience, the inspiration for
manufactured products, and the basis of the structure and function of the ecosystems
that support humans and all life on Earth (McNeely et al. 2009). Above and beyond
material welfare and livelihoods, biodiver sity contributes to security, resiliency,
and freedom of choices and actions (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005).
Less tangible, but no less important, are the cultural, spiritual, and moral costs
inflicted by species extinctions. All societies value species for their own sake,
and wild plants and animals are integral to the fabric of all the world’s cultures
(Wilson 1984).
The road to extinction is made even more perilous to people by the loss of the
broader ecosystems that underpin our livelihoods, communities, and economies
(McNeely et al. 2009). The loss of coast al wetlands and mangrove forests, for
example, greatly exacerbates both human mortality and economic damage from
tropical cyclones (Cost anza et al. 2008; Das and Vincent 2009), while disease
outbreaks such as the 2003 emergence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in
East Asia have been directly connected to trade in wildlife for human consumption
(Guan et al. 2003). Other consequences of biodiversity loss, more subtle but equally
damaging, include the deterioration of Earth’s natural capital. Loss of biodiversity
on land in the past decade alone is estimated to be costing the global economy
4 R.A. Mittermeier et al.
$500 billion annually (TEEB 2009). Reduced diversity may also reduce resilience
of ecosystems and the human communities that depend on them. For example, more
diverse coral reef communities have been found to suffer less from the diseases that
plague degraded reefs elsewhere (Raymundo et al. 2009). As Earth’s climate
changes, the roles of species and ecosystems will only increase in their importance
to humanity (Turner et al. 2009).
In many respects, conservation is local. People generally care more about the
biodiversity in the place in which they live. They also depend upon these
ecosystems the most and, broadly speaking, it is these areas over which they
have the most control. Furthermore, we believe that all biodiversity is important
and that every nation, every region, and every community should do everything
possible to conserve their living resources. So, what is the importance of setting
global priorities? Exti nction is a global phenomenon, with impacts far beyond
nearby administrative borders. More practically, biodiversity, the threats to it, and
the ability of countries to pay for its conservation vary around the world. The vast
majority of the global conservation budget perhaps 90% originates in and is
spent in economically wealthy countries (James et al. 1999). It is thus critical that
those globally flexible funds available in the hundreds of millions annually be
guided by systematic priorities if we are to move deliberately toward a global goal
of reducing biodiversity loss.
The establishment of priorities for biodiversity conservation is complex, but can
be framed as a single question. Given the choice, where should action toward
reducing the loss of biodiversity be implemented first? The field of conservation
planning addresses this question and revolves around a framework of vulnerability
and irreplaceability (Margules and Pressey 2000). Vulnerability measures the risk
to the species present in a region if the species and ecosystems that are highly
threatened are not protected now, we will not get another chance in the future.
Irreplaceability measures the extent to which spatial substitutes exist for securing
biodiversity. The number of species alone is an inadequate indication of conserva-
tion priority because several areas can share the same species. In contrast, areas
with high levels of endemism are irreplaceable. We must conserve these places
because the unique species they contain cannot be saved elsewhere. Put another
way, biodiversity is not evenly distributed on our planet. It is heavily concentrated
in certain areas, these areas have exceptionally high concentrations of endemic
species found nowhere else, and many (but not all) of these areas are the areas at
greatest risk of disappearing because of heavy human impact.
1.2 History of Hotspots
Myers’ seminal paper (Myers 1988) was the first application of the principles of
irreplaceability and vulnerability to guide conservation planning on a global scale.
Myers described ten tropical forest “hotspots” on the basis of extraordinary plant
endemism and high levels of habitat loss, albeit without quantitat ive criteria for the
1 Global Biodiversity Conservation: The Critical Role of Hotspots 5
designation of “hotspot status. A subsequent analysis added eight additional
hotspots, including four from Mediterranean- type ecosystems (Myers 1990).
After adopting hotspots as an institutional blueprint in 1989, Conservation Interna-
tional worked with Myer s in a first systematic update of the hotspots. It introduced
two strict quantitative criteria: to qualify as a hotspot, a region had to contain at
least 1,500 vascular plants as endemics (>0.5% of the world’s total), and it had to
have 30% or less of its original vegetation (extent of historical habitat cover)
remaining. These efforts culminated in an extensive global review (Mittermeier
et al. 1999) and scientific publication (Myers et al. 2000) that introduced seven new
hotspots on the basis of both the better-defined criteria and new data. A second
systematic update (Mittermeier et al. 2004) did not change the criteria, but revisited
the set of hotspots based on new data on the distribution of species and thr eats, as
well as genuine changes in the threat status of these regions. That update redefined
several hotspots, such as the Eastern Afromontane region, and added several others
that were suspected hotspots but for which sufficient data either did not exist or
were not accessible to conservation scientists outside of those regions. Sadly, it
uncovered another region the East Melanesian Islands which rapid habitat
destruction had in a short period of time transformed from a biodiverse region
that failed to meet the “less than 30% of original vegetation remaining” criterion to
a genuine hotspot.
Analyses up to now have reveale d a set of 34 biodiversity hotspots. These
regions collectively hold no fewer than 50% of vascular plants and 42% of
terrestrial vertebrates (amphib ians, mammals, birds, and reptiles) as endemi cs
(Mittermeier et al. 2004). Because of the extreme habitat loss in these regions,
this irreplaceable wealth of biodiversity is concentrated in remaining habitat total-
ing just 2.3% of the world’s land area (3.4 million km
; the original extent of habitat
in these regions was 23.5 milli on km
, or 15.7%).
In contrast with the ter restrial realm, data on the distribution and status of aquatic
species are just beginning to be synthesized at a global scale. Th e publication of a
first comprehensi ve global assessment of conservation priorities for an aquatic
system the coral reef study by Roberts et al. (2002) has led to much-needed
attention on marine hotspots. Our data on marine regions remain sparse compared
with information on terrestrial systems (Sala and Knowlton 2006), and our lack of
knowledge about freshwater systems is even more pronounced. However, signifi-
cant strides are being made on aquatic biodiversity, for example, with eff orts such
as the Global Freshwater Biodiversity Assessment (Darwall et al. 2005) and the
Global Marine Species Assessment, which includes comprehensive status
assessments completed for reef-forming corals (Carpenter et al. 2008), and similar
work under way for many thous ands of other species.
The impacts of the biodiversity h otspots on conservation have been diverse and
profound. Perhaps the most easily tracked metric is scientific impact. This metric
indicates that the hotspots benchmark paper, Myers et al. (2000), has been cited by
thousands of peer-reviewed articles, becoming the single most cited paper in the ISI
Essential Scie nce Indicators category “Environment/Ecology” for the decade
6 R.A. Mittermeier et al.
ending 2005. Yet the far more substantive impact has been in resource allocation.
Myers (2003) estimated that the hotspots concept focused US$750 million in
globally flexible funding over the prec eding 15 years. Entire funding mechanisms
have been established to reflect global prioritization, among them are the US$235
million Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund ( and the US$100 million
Global Conservation Fund (; GCF additionally targets high-
biodiversity wilderness areas). The ideas have also been incorporated into the
Resource Allocation Framework of the Global Environment Facility (,
the largest conservation donor. All told, it is likely that the concept has focused well
in excess of US$1 billion on these globally important regions.
The last major hotspots update (Mittermeier et al. 2004) gave “honorable
mention” to two other areas, the island o f Taiwan and the Queensland Wet Tropics
of northeast Australia, which just missed making the hotspots cutoff criteria.
However, it was noted that all the rain forests of east Australia, and not just the
very circumscribed Wet Tropics, should be included as a hotspot, but that data
gathering to support this had not yet been completed. That investigation has now
been concluded, showing that the region does in fact merit hotspot status, harboring
at least 2,144 vascular plant species as endemics in an area with just 23% of its
original vegetative cover remaining. This new addition to the hots pots list is
detailed in Williams et al. (2011), bringing the total number of hotspots to 35
(Fig. 1.1). Table 1.1 tracks the regions considered biodiversity hotspots from the
inception of the concept in 1988 through the various revisions to the present
version, which includes the Forests of East Australia Hotspot.
1.3 Hotspots and Biodiversity
As new data enable us to periodically update the hotspots, they also grant us an
increasingly complete picture of the natural wealth and human context of these
important areas. Here, we examine the current state of our knowledge, building
from earlier analyses with updated biodiversity data. The Global Mammal Ass ess-
ment (Schipper et al. 2008), for example, provides substantially revised data on the
status and distribution of Earth’s mammals, whi le recently compiled population
(LandScan 2006) and poverty (CIESIN 2005) data sets provide important socio-
economic context.
A total of 35 regions now meet the hotspot criteria, each holding at least 1,500
endemic plant species and each having lost 70% or more of its original habitat
extent. Combined, the 35 hotspots once covered a land area of 23.7 million km
15.9% of Earth’s land surface, just less than the land area of Russi a and Australia
combined. However, as a result of the extreme habi tat destruction in thes e regions
over the past century, what remai ns of the natural vegetation in these areas is down
to just 2.3% of the world’s land area (3.4 million km
), just grea ter than the land
area of Indi a. More than 85% of the habitat originally present in the hotspots has
1 Global Biodiversity Conservation: The Critical Role of Hotspots 7
Fig. 1.1 The biodiversity hotspots, Earth’s biologically richest and most threatened terrestrial ecosystems. Numbering 35 as of 2011, these include the newly
added Forests of East Australia Hotspot
8 R.A. Mittermeier et al.
Table 1.1 The biodiversity hotspots from 1988 to present
Myers (1988) Myers (1990)
Mittermeier et al. (1999)/Myers
et al. (2000) Mittermeier et al. (2004) 2011 Revision
Uplands of Western
Uplands of Western
Amazonia Tropical Andes
Tropical Andes Tropical Andes
Western Ecuador Western Ecuador
Choco/Darien/western Ecuador
Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena Tumbes-Choco-MagdalenaColombian Choco Colombian Choco
Atlantic Coast Brazil Atlantic Coast Brazil Atlantic Coast Brazil
Atlantic Forest Atlantic Forest
Brazilian Cerrado Cerrado Cerrado
Central Chile Central Chile
Chilean Winter Rainfall and
Valdivian Forests
Chilean Winter Rainfall and
Valdivian Forests
Mesoamerica Mesoamerica Mesoamerica
Madrean Pine–Oak Woodlands Madrean Pine–Oak Woodlands
Caribbean Caribbean Islands Caribbean Islands
California Floristic
Province California Floristic Province California Floristic Province California Floristic Province
Ivory Coast Guinean Forests of West Africa
Guinean Forests of West Africa Guinean Forests of West Africa
Cape Floristic Region Cape Floristic Province Cape Floristic Region Cape Floristic Region
Succulent Karoo Succulent Karoo Succulent Karoo
Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany
Eastern Arc and Coastal Forests of
Eastern Afromontane
Eastern Afromontane
Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa
Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa
Horn of Africa Horn of Africa
Eastern Madagascar Eastern Madagascar Madagascar and Indian Ocean Islands
Madagascar and Indian Ocean
Madagascar and Indian Ocean
Mediterranean Basin Mediterranean Basin Mediterranean Basin
Caucasus Caucasus Caucasus
1 Global Biodiversity Conservation: The Critical Role of Hotspots 9
Table 1.1 (continued)
Myers (1988) Myers (1990)
Mittermeier et al. (1999)/Myers
et al. (2000) Mittermeier et al. (2004) 2011 Revision
Irano-Anatolian Irano-Anatolian
Mountains of Central Asia Mountains of Central Asia
Western Ghats
in India
Western Ghats and Sri Lanka
Western Ghats and Sri Lanka Western Ghats and Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Eastern Himalayas Eastern Himalayas
Mountains of South-Central China Mountains of Southwest China Mountains of Southwest China
Indo-Burma Indo-Burma
Peninsular Malaysia Peninsular Malaysia
Sundaland SundalandNothern Borneo Nothern Borneo
Wallacea Wallacea Wallacea
Philippines Philippines Philippines Philippines Philippines
Japan Japan
Southwest Australia Southwest Australia
Southwest Australia Southwest Australia
Forests of East Australia
East Melanesian Islands East Melanesian Islands
New Zealand New Zealand New Zealand
New Caledonia New Caledonia New Caledonia New Caledonia New Caledonia
Polynesia–Micronesia Polynesia–Micronesia Polynesia–Micronesia
Merged and/or expanded
Expanded to include Coastal Forests of Tanzania and parts of Kenya
The Eastern Arc and Coastal Forests of Tanzania/Kenya hotspot was split into the Eastern Afromontane hotspot (the Eastern Arc Mountains and Southern
Rift, the Albertine Rift, and the Ethiopian Highlands) and Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa (southern Somalia south through Kenya, Tanzania and
Eastern Himalayas was divided into Mountains of South-Central China and Indo-Burma, the latter of which was expanded
The Indo-Burma hotspot was redefined and the Himalayan chain was separated as a new Himalayan hotspot, which was expanded
10 R.A. Mittermeier et al.
been destroyed. This means that an irreplaceable wealth of biodiversity is
concentrated in what is in fact a very small portion of our plan et.
Updated data and the addition of the Forests of East Australia Hotspot reconfirm
the extraordinary concentration of biodiversity within the hotspots (Table 1.2). The
hotspots hold more than 152,000 plant species, or over 50% of the world’s total, as
single-hotspot endemics, and many additional species are surely endemic to
combinations of hotspots . While plant numbers are based on specialist estimates,
major advances in the reliability of species distribution data allow much more
accurate statistics to be compiled for terrestrial vertebrates (birds, amphibians,
mammals, and reptiles). Overall, 22,939 terrestrial vertebrates, or 77% of the
world’s total, are found in the hotspots. A total of 12,717 vertebrate species
(43%) are found only within the biodiversity hotspots, including 10,600 that are
endemic to single hotspots and the remainder confined to multiple hotspots. Among
individual vertebrate classes, the hotspots harbor as endemics 1,845 mammals
(35% of all mammal species), 3,551 birds (35%), 3,608 amphibians (59%), and
3,723 reptiles (46%). If one considers only threatened species those that are
assessed as Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable on the IUCN Red
List of Threatened Species (IUCN 2008) we find that 60% of threatened
mammals, 63% of threatened birds, and 79% of threatened amphibians are found
exclusively within the hotspots. Although reptiles and amphibians show a greater
tendency toward hotspot endemism than the generally more wide-ranging birds and
mammals, the overall similarity among plant and various vertebrate taxa confirms a
general congruence of higher-priority regions across multiple taxa.
Although the concentration of species-level richness and endemism in the
hotspots is striking, it is not sufficient to assess the overall biological diversity of
the hotspots. It may be that other measures that assess phylogenetic diversity or
evolutionary history better represent some aspects of biodiversity for example,
ecological diversity, evolutionary potential, and the range of options for future
human use than does endemism at the species level alone. However, our know l-
edge of phylogenetic information for entire clades is not yet sufficient for detailed
analysis of the evolutionary history found within hotspots or other regions (but see
Sechrest et al. 2002). Although the delineation of higher taxa (i.e., Linnean
categories) is somewhat subjective, taxonomic distinctiveness shoul d be a useful
proxy for evolutionary, physiological, and ecological distinctiveness. Overall, the
biodiversity hotspots harbo r a disproportionate share of higher taxonomic diversity,
holding as endemics 1,523 vertebrate genera (23% of all mammal, bird, fish, reptile,
and amphibian genera) and 61 families (9%). This is nowhere more striking than in
Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands Hotspot, which by itself harbors 175
endemic vertebrate genera and 22 endemic vertebrate families, the importance of
which cannot be overstated. Other island systems such as the Caribbean, New
Zealand, and New Caledonia harbor tremendous endemic diversity at higher taxo-
nomic levels, as do mainland systems such as the Tropical Andes and the Eastern
Afromontane region (Table 1.3).
Although by definition we know little about what future options biodiversity
may provide, time and again humanity finds solutions in biodiversity medicines,
1 Global Biodiversity Conservation: The Critical Role of Hotspots 11
Table 1.2 Plant and vertebrate species occurring in (O) and endemic to (E) each of the biodiversity hotspots
Freshwater fishes
Tropical Andes 30,000 15,000 1,728 584 610 275 380 131 1,095 763 595 117
Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena 11,000 2,750 892 112 325 98 251 115 209 33 277 16
Atlantic Forest 20,000 8,000 936 148 306 94 350 133 516 323 312 48
Cerrado 10,000 4,400 605 16 225 33 800 200 205 34 300 10
Chilean Winter Rainfall and Valdiv 3,892 1,957 226 12 41 27 43 24 44 32 69 19
Mesoamerica 17,000 2,941 1,124 213 686 240 509 340 585 385 418 97
Madrean pine-Oak Woodlands 5,300 3,975 525 23 384 37 84 18 213 59 304 14
Caribbean Islands 13,000 6,550 607 167 499 468 161 65 176 169 65 48
California Floristic Province 3,488 2,124 341 8 69 4 73 15 54 27 141 15
Guinean Forests of West Africa 9,000 1,800 793 75 206 52 512 143 229 88 315 47
Cape Floristic Region 9,000 6,210 324 6 100 22 34 14 47 16 109 0
Succulent Karoo 6,356 2,439 227 1 94 15 28 0 21 1 101 1
Maputal and-Pondoland–Albany 8,100 1,900 541 0 205 36 73 20 73 11 197 3
Costal Forest of Eastern Africa 4,000 1,750 636 12 250 54 219 32 95 10 236 7
Eastern Afromontane 7,598 2,356 1,325 110 347 93 893 617 244 75 510 52
Horn of Africa 5,000 2,750 704 25 284 93 100 10 30 6 189 18
Madagascar and the Indian Ocean l 13,000 11,600 313 183 381 367 164 97 250 249 200 192
Mediterranean Basin 22,500 11,700 497 32 228 77 216 63 91 41 216 27
Caucasus 6,400 1,600 381 2 87 20 127 12 18 3 146 12
Irano-Anatolian 6,000 2,500 364 0 116 13 90 30 20 3 150 9
Mountains of Central Asia 5,500 1,500 493 0 59 1 27 5 8 4 116 7
Western Ghats and Sri Lanka 5,916 3,049 457 35 265 176 191 139 204 156 143 27
Himalaya 10,000 3,160 979 15 177 49 269 33 111 46 269 18
Mountains of Southwest China 12,000 3,500 611 1 94 15 92 23 92 8 237 8
Indo-Burma 13,500 7,000 1,277 73 518 204 1,262 553 328 193 401 100
Sundaland 25,000 15,000 771 146 449 244 950 350 258 210 397 219
Wallacea 10,000 1,500 650 265 222 99 250 50 49 33 244 144
12 R.A. Mittermeier et al.
Philippines 9,253 6,091 535 185 235 160 281 67 94 78 178 113
Japan 5,600 1,950 368 15 64 28 214 52 53 46 104 52
Southwest Australia 5,571 2,948 285 10 177 27 20 10 32 22 55 13
East Melanesian Islands 8,000 3,000 365 154 114 54 52 3 50 45 100 44
New Zealand 2,300 1,865 198 89 37 37 39 25 7 4 12 4
New Caledonia 3,270 2,432 105 23 70 62 85 9 0 0 14 6
Polynesia–Micronesia 5,330 3,074 300 170 61 31 96 20 8 3 22 12
Forests of East Australia 8,257 2144.0 632 28 321 70 80 10 120 38 133 6
Hotspot totals for Forests of East Australia from Williams et al. (2011); for all other hotspots from Mittermeier et al. (2004)
Calculated based on species range maps from Stuart et al. (2008)
Calculated based on species range maps from Schipper et al. (2008)
1 Global Biodiversity Conservation: The Critical Role of Hotspots 13
foods, engineering prototypes, and other products that enhance human lives and
address our most pressing problems. It is thus difficult to overestimate the impor-
tance of maintaining the option value afforded by the vast storehouse of evolution-
ary diversity that the biodiversity hotspots represent. This is perhaps nowhere
illustrated more clearly than in the case of the gastric-brooding frogs of the genus
Rheobatrachus. Discovered in the early 1970s amid the streams and forests of
Australia, the two Rheobatrachus species were the only amphibians known to
incubate their young internally, in the mother’s stomach. Researchers noted that
the compounds secreted to avoid harm to the young might aid the development of
treatments for digestive conditions such as ulcers that affect millions of humans
worldwide. However, before these possibilities could be explored, the habitats of
these unique creatures had become so badly decimated that both species were
extinct by the mid-1980s (Hines et al. 1999). As they were endemic to what is
now known as the Forests of East Australia Hotspot, failure to conserve them there
resulted in their extinction. Redoubled effort is needed in the biodiversity hotspots
to ensure that we do not permanently foreclose the opportunity to learn from the
evolutionary innovations of other endemic taxa.
Concurrent to the development of the hotspots concept was the recognition of
the importance of conserving the least-threatened highly diverse regions of the
globe. These high-biodiversity wilderness areas (Mittermeier et al. 2003) are
defined on the basis of retaining at least 70% of their original habitat cover,
harboring at least 1,500 plant species as endemics, and having a human population
density of < 5 people per km
. Based on the updated data used in this analysis, the
five High-Biodiversity Wilderness Areas (Amazonia, Congo Forests, Miombo-
Mopane Woodlands and Savannas, New Guinea, and North American Deserts)
hold 28% of the world’s mammals and 20% of the world’s amp hibians, including
7% of mammals and 11% of amphibians as endemics, in about 7.9% of the world’s
land surface (6.1% including only intact habitats). While the highly threatened
hotspots must be conserved to prevent substantial biodiversity loss in the immediate
Table 1.3 Hotspots with the greatest total number of endemic higher vertebrate taxa (all
mammals, amphibians, birds, freshwater fishes, and reptiles)
Hotspot (# endemics)
Genera Families
Madagascar and the Indian
Ocean Islands (175) Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands (22)
2 Eastern Afromontane (119) Philippines (16)
3 Tropical Andes (103) Japan (8)
4 Sundaland (97) Sundaland (7)
5 Mesoamerica (78) Caribbean Islands (6)
6 Indo-Burma (68)
Chilean Winter Rainfall and Valdivian Forests, Wallacea,
New Zealand, New Caledonia (4)
7 Caribbean Islands (65)
8 Atlantic Forest (63)
9 Wallacea (62)
10 Philippines (45) Mesoamerica, Indo-Burma, and Polynesia–Micronesia (3)
14 R.A. Mittermeier et al.
future, there is also strategic advantage in investing in conserving biodiverse
wilderness areas, which by virtue of their intact ness and comparatively lower
costs make good targets for proactive conservation action (Brooks et al. 2006).
For this reason, Conservation International has for the past two decades focused on
both the biodiversity hotspots and high-biodiversity wilderness areas as part of its
two-pronged strategy for global conservation prioritizati on.
1.4 Social and Economic Context
The biodiversity extincti on crisis is one of several grave challenges facing human-
ity today. Climate change and the persistence of poverty pose the prospect of a grim
future for Earth and billions of its human inhabitants. These challenges, though, are
intimately intertwined. The same environmental degradation that threatens the
persistence of species contributes substantially to anthropogenic greenhouse gas
emissions and undermines the ecosystem services that support human communities.
Climate change will have particularly severe impacts on the poor (Ahmed et al.
2009) and jeopardizes a large portion of Earth’s species (IPCC 2007; Parmesan and
Yohe 2003; Thomas et al. 2004). Yet if these problems are inextricably linked, so
too are many solutions. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the hotspots.
The hotspots, home to a major portion of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, are
also home to a disproportionate share of its people (Cincotta et al. 2000). Recent
population data (LandScan 2006) show that the 35 hotspots contain about 2.08
billion people 31.8% of all humans in just 15.9% of Earth’s land area
(Table 1.4). Populations in hotspots are generally growing faster than the rest of
the world. Between the 2002 and 2006 releases of the LandScan population data set,
population within hotspots grew an estimated 6.0%, while Earth’s overall popula-
tion increased only 4.8%. Hotspots also contain a substantial fraction of the world’s
poor. Although spatially explicit estimates of poverty have not been compiled
globally, the incidence of child malnutrition provides one measure of the poverty
in an area and has been estimated at subnational scales worldwide (CIESIN 2005).
These data show that 21% of the world’s malnourished children live in hotspots.
The interactions between biodiversity, extreme habitat loss, other threats, and
socioeconomic context are complex. Past habitat loss may have indeed been
connected to poverty. For example, the lack of alternative sources for food, fuel,
shelter, and income can lead to exploitation of natural habitats to meet these urgent
needs. Yet rampant consumption of energy, food, and raw materia ls by both devel-
oped and developing countries has played just as great a role in the degradat ion of
these areas, albeit from regions often geographically distant from hotspots. But even
this more complete picture misses a critical point. Regardless of past causes, the
more pressing issue is that all of humanity depends on the habitats that remain in
biodiversity hotspots. Poor communities are often those most dependent on sustain-
ing the clean water, protection from storms, and other ecosystem services they
derive from nature. Based on Turner et al. (2007), the estimated value of all services
1 Global Biodiversity Conservation: The Critical Role of Hotspots 15
Table 1.4 Population and poverty in the biodiversity hotspots
density (1 km
rate (%)
Tropical Andes 57,775,500 38 712,240 8
Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena 14,137,600 52 191,216 11
Atlantic Forest 111,817,000 91 464,519 5
Cerrado 28,011,300 14 160,894 5
Chilean Winter Rainfall and
Valdivian Forests 15,285,100 38 11,044 1
Mesoamerica 84,590,400 75 1,493,320 13
Madrean Pine–Oak
Woodlands 15,206,500 33 326,133 7
Caribbean Islands 37,516,000 164 214,842 6
California Floristic Province 36,663,100 125 10,744 0
Guinean Forests of West
Africa 89,016,200 144 3,466,330 21
Cape Floristic Region 4,269,870 54 27,044 7
Succulent Karoo 372,404 4 3,327 10
Pondoland–Albany 19,598,000 72 179,398 7
Coastal Forests of Eastern
Africa 17,024,900 59 822,586 29
Eastern Afromontane 115,799,000 114 8,463,810 38
Horn of Africa 40,017,300 24 2,410,290 31
Madagascar and the Indian
Ocean Islands 21,731,700 36 1,345,790 39
Mediterranean Basin 239,517,000 115 899,708 5
Caucasus 37,073,900 69 226,073 9
Irano-Anatolian 51,799,500 58 708,419 11
Mountains of Central Asia 38,005,700 44 444,026 10
Western Ghats and Sri Lanka 51,856,400 275 2,827,980 36
Himalaya 102,492,000 138 5,839,790 40
Mountains of Southwest China 8,739,140 33 40,518 4
Indo-Burma 349,827,000 148 8,855,140 24
Sundaland 229,383,000 153 5,916,330 25
Wallacea 27,861,900 83 638,814 26
Philippines 87,757,400 296 2,846,180 28
Japan 125,347,000 335 0 0
Southwest Australia 1,816,030 5 0 0
East Melanesian Islands 1,284,660 13 0 0
New Zealand 3,935,730 15 0 0
New Caledonia 197,518 10 0 0
Polynesia–Micronesia 2,898,760 62 7,018 5
Forests of East Australia 9,147,190 36 0 0
All 35 hotspots 2,077,771,702 88 49,553,523 21
16 R.A. Mittermeier et al.
provided by the hotspots remaining habitats is $1.59 trillion annually on a per- area
basis more than seven times that provided by the average square kilometer of land
worldwide. This calculat ion is almost certainly an underestimate, as it does not
account for the increase in value that may result from the increasing scarcity of these
services in hotspots in the face of increasing need for them. Meanwhile, it is not just
the poor communities in hotspots that benefit from these services. For example,
based on recent data (Reusch and Gibbs 2008 ), the hots pots store more than 99 Gt of
carbon in living plant tissues, and still more in peat and other soils. The greenhouse
gas emission reductions that result from slowing high rates of habitat loss in these
regions are a critical contribution to slowing global warming.
Hotspots are very important for the survival of human cultur al diversity. A study
of the distribution of human languages (Gorenflo et al. 2008) used human linguistic
diversity as a surrogate for human cultural diversity and found that about 46% of the
6,900 languages still spoken are found within the borders of the hotspots and at least
32% of languages are spoken nowhere else. This concentration very much parallels
what we see in terms of endemic species. What is more, it also includes a very high
proportion of the languages, and the unique cultures speaking them, most at risk of
disappearing over the next few decades.
Hotspots are also notable as centers of violent conflict. Another recent study
(Hanson et al. 2009) found that 80% of the world’s violent conflicts since 1950 (i.e.,
those involving more than 1,000 deaths) took place within the biodiversity hotspots
and most hotspots experienced repeated episodes of violence over the 60-year span.
This result suggests that, if conservation in hotspots is to succeed, conservati on
efforts must maintain focus during periods of war and that biodiversity conservation
considerations should be factored into military, humanitarian, and reconstruction
programs in the world’s war zones.
1.5 Securing Hotspots for the Future
Threats to hotspots are similar to, although generally more intense than, threats to
biodiversity worldwide. Habitat destruction, projected to remain the dominant threat
to terrestrial biodiversity even in an era of climate change (Sala et al. 2000), is
pervasive in hotspots and driving extinctions in many (Brooks et al. 2002). The
growing impacts of climate change will be felt worldwide, as altered precipitation
and temperature, rising oceans, and climate-driven habitat loss threaten a large
fraction of species with extinction (Thomas et al. 2004) and drive desperate
human populations to further environmental degradation (Turner et al. 2010).
Other threats are less widespread, but felt severely in particular regions. Introduced
predators have devastated island hotspots, where species evolved in the absence of
domestic cats and rats and other invasive predators (Steadman 1995). Introduced
plants are having massive impacts on hydrology and biodiversity in some hotspots,
particularly those having Mediterranean-type vegetation (Groves and di Castri
1991). Exploit ation for protein (e.g., bushmeat), for medicine, and for the pet trade
1 Global Biodiversity Conservation: The Critical Role of Hotspots 17
threatens species in all hotspots, particularly the Guinea n forests of West Africa
(Bakarr et al. 2001), Madagascar, and hotspots in Southeast Asia (van Dijk et al.
2000). Chitridiomycosis, a fungal disease, is recognized as a proximate driver of
amphibian declines and extinctions worldwide (Stuart et al. 2004; Wake and
Vredenburg 2008). It may prove to be the most destructive infectiou s disease in
recorded history, with a substantial effect on the hotspots, which harbor an astonish-
ing 59% of all amphibians as endemics.
The establishment and effective management of protect ed areas (Bruner et al.
2001) must continue to be the cornerstone of efforts to halt the loss of biodiversity,
both in the hotspots and elsewhere. These areas may be in the form of national parks
or strict biological reserves or may come in a variety of other forms, depending on
local context, including indigenous reserves, private protected areas, and commu-
nity conservation agreements of various kinds. An overlay of the hotspots with
protected areas with defined boundaries from the World Database on Protected
Areas (IUCN and WCMC 2009) reveals that 12% of the original area of the 35
hotspots is under some form of protection, while 6% is classified as IUCN category
I–IV protected area (which provides a higher degree of protectio n in terms
of constraints on human occupation or resource use). These numbers are
underestimates since boundaries for many protected areas have not been systemati-
cally compiled, and they certainly overestimate the land area that is managed
effectively. Yet the fraction of hotspots covered is less meaningful than the
locations themselves. Efforts to conserve the hotspots must focus on ensuring
long-term persistence of the areas already protected and strategically add new
protected areas in the highest priority unprot ected habitats that remain intact as
indicated by systematic efforts to identify gaps in protected areas networks (e.g.,
Rodrigues et al. 2004).
Maintaining the resilience of hotspots in the face of climate change is another
major challenge. Changing temperature and precipitation patterns forces species to
move according to movement in their preferred habitat conditions, yet these
movements will often be both difficult for species to undertake and complex for
researchers to predict. Due to the nature of climatic gradients, the distances species
must move are likely to be shorter in mountainous terrain and longer in flatter
regions (Loarie et al. 2009). On the other hand, mountains are more likely to have
habitat discontinuities that make species dispersal more difficult. Meanwhile,
species’ tolerance to climate variability can be low (Tewksbury et al. 2008) and
changing climates are likely to produce a complex global mosaic of climates shifted
in space, climates which disappear in the future, and entirely novel climates
(Williams et al. 2007). To be successful, then, conservation planning must b egin
to systematically plan actions in both space and time . Protecting the sites where
species currently exist is essential, particularly the Key Biodiversity Areas where
species are at greatest current risk (Eken et al. 2004). The hotspots, in fact, harbor
81% of the global total 595 Alliance for Zero Extinction sites locations harboring
the sole remaining populations of the most threatened speci es (Ricketts et al. 2005).
If we lose these sites now, we will not be granted another chance to save their
species later. However, this is only the beginning. We must also protect habitats
18 R.A. Mittermeier et al.
where species will be in the future, as well as provide “stepping stones” to facilitate
movement to these new ranges. Biologists are increasing their ability to anticipate
and plan for these needs (Hannah et al. 2007). To be successful, conservation in
a changing climate will require a very strong focus on ending further habitat
destruction as quic kly as possible.
1.6 Conclusion
Based initially on plant endemism, the hotspots have in the past two decades been
confirmed as priority regions for the efficient conservation of biodiversity more
broadly. Collectively, they harbor more than half of all plant species and 43% of all
terrestrial vertebrates as endemics, an even greater proportion of threatened species,
and a substantial fraction of higher-taxono mic diversity. More recent information
has revealed that this phenomenal concentration of biodiversity into habitats cov-
ering a combined 2.3% of the world’s land area coincides with disproportionate
concentrations of ecosystem services in many of the regions where local
communities directly depend on the natural environment on a daily basis. While
conservation in these areas is made difficult by ongoing threats, scarce information,
and limited local financial capacity, conservation here is not optional. Indeed, if we
fail in the hotspots, we will lose nearly half of all terrestrial species regardless of
how successful we are everywhere else, not to mention an almost unthinkably large
contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and extensive human suffering resulting
from loss of ecosystem service s upon which the human populations of the hotspots
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... Mountains offer heterogeneous environmental and climatic conditions, thus providing habitats for many plant species along wide bioclimatic gradients (Hu et al., 2020;Mittermeier et al., 2011). Most existing studies, however, are limited in geographical scope (Chiang et al., 2016;Fotis et al., 2018), especially in subtropical/ tropical forests Poorter et al., 2015;van der Sande et al., 2017). ...
... A national inventory on biomass is documented based on the physiographical regions across Nepal (DFRS, 2015), while a limited research tried to detect factors governing biomass in tropical and temperate forests (Luintel et al., 2018;Måren & Sharma, 2021). The eastern Himalayan forests are anticipated to experience a severe loss in plant biodiversity as a result of climatic warming (Mittermeier et al., 2011) and increasing anthropogenic pressure (Chaudhary et al., 2015;Chettri et al., 2007;Schickhoff et al., 2016). Thus, an improved understanding of the current stock of forest biomass and its drivers is critical. ...
... Supporting this ideas, the loss of species in the Himalayas could lead to a larger decline in biomass (Liang et al., 2016) due to lower abilities to efficiently use water, nutrients, and light Liu et al., 2018). However, structural attributes may not necessarily favor biomass accumulation if changes in climate are accompanied by shifts of tree species (Grytnes et al., 2014;Yan & Tang, 2019) and the loss of species in the eastern Himalayas (Mittermeier et al., 2011). ...
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... There are good reasons to believe that a high proportion of CWR occurring in Mesoamerica are threatened with extinction. Mesoamerica harbours an estimated 3000 endemic flowering plant species yet had lost more than 80% of its original native vegetation cover by the beginning of the 21st century (Mittermeier et al., 2011). The annual deforestation was calculated in 395,000 ha between 2005 and 2010 (Elizondo et al., 2015), making it one of the world's 36 biodiversity hotspots (Rodríguez Olivet & Asquith, 2004 (Goettsch et al., 2015;IUCN, 2020;Rivers, 2017), CWR have not been targeted. ...
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Ensuring food security is one of the world's most critical issues as agricultural sys�tems are already being impacted by global change. Crop wild relatives (CWR)—wild plants related to crops—possess genetic variability that can help adapt agriculture to a changing environment and sustainably increase crop yields to meet the food security challenge. Here we report the results of an extinction risk assessment of 224 wild relatives of some of the world's most important crops (i.e. chilli pepper, maize, common bean, avocado, cotton, potato, squash, vanilla and husk tomato) in Mesoamerica— an area of global significance as a centre of crop origin, domestication and of high CWR diversity. We show that 35% of the selected CWR taxa are threatened with extinction according to The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List demonstrates that these valuable genetic resources are under high anthropogenic threat. The dominant threat processes are land use change for agriculture and farming, invasive and other problematic species (e.g. pests, genetically modified organisms) and use of biological resources, including overcollection and logging. The most significant drivers of extinction relate to smallholder agriculture—given its high incidence and ongoing shifts from traditional agriculture to modern practices (e.g. use of herbicides)—smallholder ranching and housing and urban development and introduced genetic material. There is an urgent need to increase knowledge and research around different aspects of CWR. Policies that support in situ and ex situ conservation of CWR and promote sustainable agriculture are pivotal to secure these resources for the benefit of current and future generations.
... The Tropical Andes Biodiversity hotspot, also referred to as the uplands of Western Amazonia, spans from Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia to Northern Argentina (Myers et al., 2000;Mittermeier et al., 2004Mittermeier et al., , 2011. It ranks first among 36 world hotspots for biodiversity based on species richness and endemism and level of threat, and is estimated to contain nearly one-sixth of all vascular plant species. ...
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The topographic gradients of the Tropical Andes may have triggered species divergence by different mechanisms. Topography separates species’ geographical ranges and offers climatic heterogeneity, which could potentially foster local adaptation to specific climatic conditions and result in narrowly distributed endemic species. Such a pattern is found in the Andean centered palm genus Aiphanes. To test the extent to which geographic barriers and climatic heterogeneity can explain distribution patterns in Aiphanes, we sampled 34 out of 36 currently recognized species in that genus and sequenced them by Sanger sequencing and/or sequence target capture sequencing. We generated Bayesian, likelihood, and species-tree phylogenies, with which we explored climatic trait evolution from current climatic occupation. We also estimated species distribution models to test the relative roles of geographical and climatic divergence in their evolution. We found that Aiphanes originated in the Miocene in Andean environments and possibly in mid-elevation habitats. Diversification is related to the occupation of the adjacent high and low elevation habitats tracking high annual precipitation and low precipitation seasonality (moist habitats). Different species in different clades repeatedly occupy all the different temperatures offered by the elevation gradient from 0 to 3,000 m in different geographically isolated areas. A pattern of conserved adaptation to moist environments is consistent among the clades. Our results stress the evolutionary roles of niche truncation of wide thermal tolerance by physical range fragmentation, coupled with water-related niche conservatism, to colonize the topographic gradient.
... Misiones es una de las provincias con mayor diversidad de especies de Argentina (Zanotti et al., 2020;Bauni et al., 2022), fue declarada por ley N° 27494 capital nacional de la biodiversidad, siendo además parte de uno de los 36 hotspots de biodiversidad del mundo (Mittermeier et al., 2011;Noss et al., 2015). La ecorregión de selva paranaense, dentro del Bosque Atlántico, posee un clima subtropical, con temperaturas medias anuales de entre 19-24ºC. ...
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Morchella (Morchellaceae, Pezizales, Ascomycota) es un género monofilético bien definido. Se caracteriza por poseer una gran plasticidad morfológica entre las especies que lo componen. Algunas están citadas como saprótrofas, mientras que otras como micorrícicas. Su distribución mundial es amplia, con más de 60 especies descriptas. El objetivo del presente trabajo es presentar el primer registro de Morchella esculenta en la provincia de Misiones, con el fin de ampliar su distribución geográfica en Argentina y en la ecorregión de selva paranaense dentro del Bosque Atlántico. Se obtuvieron registros de M. esculenta en los inviernos de 2018, 2020 y 2021 en tres sitios de la provincia de Misiones: cercano a plantaciones de yerba mate y Hovenia dulcis y en un espacio parquizado con especies arbóreas nativas y exóticas. Los especímenes se fotografiaron y describieron con base en su macro y micromorfología, su ecología y biogeografía.
Gradients in biodiversity are often considered a result of environmental variables like temperature, precipitation, ecological disturbance regimes, and species coexistence. This study aimed at investigating the genetic diversity and structure of natural populations of Eugenia uniflora growing in two different biomes in southern Brazil (Atlantic Forest and Pampa biomes), as well as in the transition zone between them. A novel set of 11 SSR loci from E. uniflora was validated and employed to test the hypothesis that the allelic composition of the populations changes gradually along the environmental gradient sampled, with a characteristic genetic structure within each biome and an intermediary allelic composition in the transition zone. The results revealed high polymorphism of the validated markers and significant genetic structure of the different populations. The main source of genetic variation observed is the individual samples, but there was a considerable amount of variation among populations, and regions. We suggested that the genetic structure of the studied populations presents distinct patterns which may be related to adaptation to local environmental conditions, or at least related to the transition among them. Our study provides evidence that even environments neglected regarding the information on their biodiversity and the transition zones may hold important levels of genetic diversity. Thus, the distribution of genetic diversity should be interpreted in the light of the life traits of the species and the local environment since valuable diversity may be found both in a hotspot of diversity and in neglected forest formations.
Background As forested natural habitats disappear in the world, traditional, shade-coffee plantations offer an opportunity to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services. Traditional coffee plantations maintain a diversity of tree species that provide shade for coffee bushes and, at the same time, are important repositories for plants and animals that inhabited the original cloud forest. However, there is still little information about shade-coffee plantation’s fungal diversity despite their relevance for ecosystem functioning as decomposers, symbionts and pathogens. Specifically, it is unknown if and what mycorrhizae-forming fungi can be found on the branches and trunks of coffee bushes and trees, which hold a diversity of epiphytes. Here, we evaluate fungal communities on specific plant microsites on both coffee bushes and shade trees. We investigate the ecological roles played by this diversity, with a special focus on mycorrhizae-forming fungi that may enable the establishment and development of epiphytic plants. Methods We collected 48 bark samples from coffee bushes and shade trees (coffee; tree), from four plant microsites (upper and lower trunks, branches and twigs), in two shade-coffee plantations in the Soconusco region in southern Mexico, at different altitudes. We obtained ITS amplicon sequences that served to estimate alpha and beta diversity, to assign taxonomy and to infer the potential ecological role played by the detected taxa. Results The bark of shade trees and coffee bushes supported high fungal diversity (3,783 amplicon sequence variants). There were no strong associations between community species richness and collection site, plant type or microsite. However, we detected differences in beta diversity between collection sites. All trophic modes defined by FUNGuild database were represented in both plant types. However, when looking into guilds that involve mycorrhizae formation, the CLAM test suggests that coffee bushes are more likely to host taxa that may function as mycorrhizae. Discussion We detected high fungal diversity in shade-coffee plantations in Soconusco, Chiapas, possibly remnants of the original cloud forest ecosystem. Several mycorrhiza forming fungi guilds occur on the bark of coffee bushes and shade trees in this agroecosystem, with the potential of supporting epiphyte establishment and development. Thus, traditional coffee cultivation could be part of an integrated strategy for restoration and conservation of epiphytic populations. This is particularly relevant for conservation of threatened species of Orchidaceae that are highly dependent on mycorrhizae formation.
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Range shifts due to climate change may cause species to move out of protected areas. Climate change could therefore result in species range dynamics that reduce the relevance of current fixed protected areas in future conservation strategies. Here, we apply species distribution modeling and conservation planning tools in three regions (Mexico, the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa, and Western Europe) to examine the need for additional protected areas in light of anticipated species range shifts caused by climate change. We set species representation targets and assessed the area required to meet those targets in the present and in the future, under a moderate climate change scenario. Our findings indicate that protected areas can be an important conservation strategy in such a scenario, and that early action may be both more effective and less costly than inaction or delayed action. According to our projections, costs may vary among regions and none of the three areas studied will fully meet all conservation targets, even under a moderate climate change scenario. This suggests that limiting climate change is an essential complement to adding protected areas for conservation of biodiversity.
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Site conservation is among the most effective means to reduce global biodiversity loss. Therefore, it is critical to identify those sites where unique biodiversity must be conserved immediately. To this end, the concept of key biodiversity areas (KBAs) has been developed, seeking to identify and, ultimately, ensure that networks of globally important sites are safeguarded. This methodology builds up from the identification of species conservation targets (through the IUCN Red List) and nests within larger-scale conservation approaches. Sites are selected using standardized, globally applicable, threshold-based criteria, driven by the distribution and population of species that require site-level conservation. The criteria address the two key issues for setting site conservation priorities: vulnerability and irreplaceability. We also propose quantitative thresholds for the identification of KBAs meeting each criterion, based on a review of existing approaches and ecological theory to date. However, these thresholds require extensive testing, especially in aquatic systems.
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The realization of conservation goals requires strategies for managing whole landscapes including areas allocated to both production and protection. Reserves alone are not adequate for nature conservation but they are the cornerstone on which regional strategies are built. Reserves have two main roles. They should sample or represent the biodiversity of each region and they should separate this biodiversity from processes that threaten its persistence. Existing reserve systems throughout the world contain a biased sample of biodiversity, usually that of remote places and other areas that are unsuitable for commercial activities. A more systematic approach to locating and designing reserves has been evolving and this approach will need to be implemented if a large proportion of today's biodiversity is to exist in a future of increasing numbers of people and their demands on natural resources.