Life on Earth faces a crisis of historical and planetary proportions. Unsustainable consumption in many northern countries and crushing poverty in the tropics are destroying wild nature. Biodiversity is besieged.
Extinction is the gravest aspect of the biodiversity crisis: it is irreversible. While extinction is a natural process, human impacts have elevated the rate of extinction by at least a thousand, possibly several thousand, times the natural rate. Mass extinctions of this magnitude have only occurred five times in the history of our planet; the last brought the end of the dinosaur age.
In a world where conservation budgets are insufficient given the number of species threatened with extinction, identifying conservation priorities is crucial. British ecologist Norman Myers defined the biodiversity hotspot concept in 1988 to address the dilemma that conservationists face: what areas are the most immediately important for conserving biodiversity?
The biodiversity hotspots hold especially high numbers of endemic species, yet their combined area of remaining habitat covers only 2.3 percent of the Earth's land surface. Each hotspot faces extreme threats and has already lost at least 70 percent of its original natural vegetation. Over 50 percent of the world’s plant species and 42 percent of all terrestrial vertebrate species are endemic to the 34 biodiversity hotspots.
Hotspots in Context Hotspots Defined Impact of Hotspots
Hotspots Revisited Conservation Responses
Eight Hotspots hold a diversity of plant and animal life, many of which are found no where else on Earth.
Composed of large land areas as well as islands dotting the Pacific seas, these 13 Hotspots represent important biodiversity.
From the Mediterranean Basin to the Mountains of Central Asia, these four Hotspots are unique in their diversity.
North and Central America play host to thousands of acres of important habitat.
From Brazil's Cerrado to the Tropical Andes, South America has some of the richest and most diverse life on Earth.