Biodiversity Hotspots: Definition, Criteria and Hotspots

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Biodiversity Hotspots
Biodiversity Hotspots

What is a Biodiversity Hotspot?

  • Biodiversity hotspots are geographical areas that exhibit a notable abundance of diverse species, including numerous species that are unique to that specific location and a substantial number of species that are at risk of extinction. 
  • The notion of biodiversity hotspots was initially introduced in the late 1980s and has since served as a valuable means of identifying regions that require heightened conservation efforts.

What is the Criteria of Biodiversity Hotspots?

  • To qualify as a biodiversity hotspots, a region must meet two criteria- according to Conservation International
    • 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 is irreplaceable.
    • It must have 30% or less of its original natural vegetation and must be threatened.

How many Biodiversity Hotspots are in India?

  • In India, there are four areas which qualify the criteria for biodiversity Hotspots-

Himalayan Hotspot

  • It is the dwelling place of the highest mountains on Earth, such as Mt. Everest. These mountains ascend abruptly, giving rise to a wide array of ecosystems that vary from grasslands and forests in lower regions to meadows at higher altitudes where trees cannot grow. 
  • It’s remarkable that even vascular plants have been found flourishing at elevations exceeding 6,000 meters
  • This hotspot is a crucial habitat for many significant bird and mammal species, including vultures, tigers, elephants, rhinos, and wild water buffalo.

Indo-Burma Hotspot

  • Encompassing over 2 million sq. kms. of tropical Asia, the Indo-Burma region continues to unveil its rich biological treasures.
  • In the past 12 years alone, six significant mammal species have been discovered like the large-antlered muntjac, the Annamite muntjac, etc. 
  • This area is also home to a remarkable number of unique freshwater turtle species, many of which are facing the threat of extinction due to excessive harvesting and extensive loss of their natural habitats. 
  • Furthermore, the bird population in Indo-Burma is incredibly diverse, boasting nearly 1,300 distinct species, including endangered ones like the white-eared night-heron, the gray-crowned crocias, and the orange-necked partridge.

Sundaland

  • The breath-taking plants and animals of the Sundaland Hotspot are being negatively impacted by the rapid expansion of industrial forestry in these islands and the international trade of animals, such as tigers, monkeys, and turtle species, for food and medicine in other countries. 
  • The population of orangutans, which can only be found in this hotspot, is experiencing a significant decline. Additionally, the islands of Java and Sumatra are home to some of the last remaining habitats of two rhino species in Southeast Asia. 
  • Similar to many tropical regions, the forests in the Sundaland Hotspot are being cleared to make way for commercial activities. Rubber, oil palm, and pulp production are three major factors that are severely affecting the biodiversity in this region.

Western Ghats-Sri Lanka

  • The forests in the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka have been severely impacted due to the increasing population and the resulting demand for timber and agricultural land. 
  • The remaining forests in the Western Ghats are highly fragmented, and in Sri Lanka, only 1.5 % of the original forest remains. 
  • The pressure from the growing population is also affecting the outskirts of protected areas, where illegal activities such as farming, logging, and poaching take place. 
  • The unique combination of the yearly monsoons and the mountainous terrain in this area has created a hotspot that is home to a diverse range of plants, reptiles, and amphibians, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. 
  • Sri Lanka alone may have as many as 140 species of amphibians that are endemic to the region. 
  • Additionally, the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka are home to significant populations of Asian Elephants, Indian Tigers, and the endangered Lion-tailed Macaque. 
  • The region also boasts a remarkably high level of freshwater fish endemism, with over 140 native species.

Biodiversity hotspots teach us a crucial lesson i.e., understanding biodiversity requires taking into account various factors such as human population, agricultural techniques, military activities, and political systems. Biodiversity is intricately linked with human influences. Similarly, comprehending human economic, social, and political systems is impossible without considering the diverse life forms that sustain us.

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