Biodiversity and Hotspots


Biodiversity is deed as the variability among living organism and the ecological complexes of which they are part, including diversity within and between species and ecosystems. Biodiversity manifests at species, genetic, and ecosystem levels. It has direct consumptive value in food, agriculture, medicine industry apart from aesthetic value. Biodiversity maintains ecological balance and continues evolutionary processes. The indirect ecosystem services provided through biodiversity are photosynthesis, pollination, transpiration, chemical cycling, nutrient cycling, soil maintenance, climate regulation, air, water system management, water treatment and pest control.

India is one of the 12 mega biodiversity countries of the world. From about 70 per cent of the total geographical area surveyed so far, about 45,600 plant species and 91,000 animal species have been described. India became a party to the International Convention of Biological Diversity in May 1994. The six objectives of the biodiversity convention are:

  • Conservation of biological diversity.
  • Sustainable use of components of biological diversity.
  • Fair and equitable sharing benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources.
  • To foster economic and human development which is culturally and ecologically sustainable.
  • To provide support for research, monitoring education and information exchange.
  • To facilitate conservation of representative landscapes and their immense biological diversity and cultural heritage.

The scheme of biodiversity conservation was initiated during 1991-92 to ensure coordinating among various agencies dealing with issues relating to conservation of biodiversity and to review, monitor and evolve adequate policy instrument for the same. The main implementation measures for conservation of biodiversity are through national strategies, legislation, and administrative instruments to be developed in accordance with each country’s particular conditions and capabilities.

Gobal Biodiversity Hotspots

The concept of biodiversity hotspot was given by the British biologist Norman Myers in 1988. According to N. Myers the basis for hotspot designation are:

  • A region must support 1500 endemic plant species, 0.5 per cent of total global species (300,000), and
  • A region must have lost more than 70 per cent of its original habitat. In the opinion of Norman Myers, there are 34 hotspots scattered in different parts of the world.
  • Each of these hotspots is under severe pressure due to anthropogenic interventions and has already lost 70 per cent of its original vegetation.

The global biodiversity hotspots are given below:

North and Central America

1. California Floristic Province

Stretching over the state of California and adjacent mountains, this hotspot is essentially a zone of Mediterranean biome and has high levels of plant endemism characteristic of the region.

2. Caribbean Islands

These islands support exceptionally diverse ecosystems, ranging from mountain cloud forests to cactus shrub-lands which have been devastated by deforestation and encroachment.

3. Madrean Pine-Oak Woodlands

This biodiversity hotspot stretches over the mountain of Mexico, Baja- Peninsula (Mexico) and southern states of USA. It is an area of rugged mountainous terrain and deep canyons.

4. Meso-American Forests

Stretching over the Central America, it is the third largest hotspot of the world. The endemic species of this region include quetzals, howler monkeys and 17,000 plant species.

South America

5. Atlantic Forest of Brazil

This is one of the richest biodiversity hotspots of the world. It contains over 20,000 plant species, out of which about 40 per cent are endemic.

6. Brazil’s Cerrado

The Cerrado region of Brazil consists of 21 per cent of the country. It covers the greater parts of the savanna biome of South America and contains a large number of endemic species of plants and animals.

7. Chilean Winter Rainfall (Valdivian) Forests

This biodiversity hotspot stretches over the Andes mountains, ‘Atacama Desert and low level areas of Chile, along the coast of Pacific ocean. It contains rich endemic fauna and flora.

8. Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena

It is bordered by two other hotspots-Meso-America to the north and the tropical Andes to the east. It has great diversity in fauna and flora.

9. Tropical Andes

Sprawling over the equatorial Andes in Ecuador, Peru and Brazil, it is one of the smallest biodiversity hotspots of the world, but has rich endemic plants and animals.

Europe and Central Asia

10. Caucasus Region

Stretching over the mountainous regions of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, the Caucasus Biodiversity Hotspot contains a large number of endemic plant species. The over-interaction of man in this region has threatened the endemic species.

11. Irano-Anatolian Region

Sprawling over the plateau of Anatotia (Turkey), Kurdistan (northern Iraq) and Elburz Mountain and the central parts of Dasht-e-Kavir (Iran), this biodiversity hotspot has numerous endemic species of plants and animals. Many of the plants and animals of this region are not found anywhere in the world.


12. Mediterranean Basin and its eastern coastal Region

This biodiversity hotspot contains more than 22,500 endemic plant species and numerous species of fauna.

13. Mountains of Central Asia

The plateau of Pamir, Tien Shan Mountains, Kun-Lun and Hindukush has great variety of endemic plants and animals.


14. South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region

Essentially, it is a shrub-land along the southern parts of South Africa. It has great diversity in endemic plants and animals. Many of these plants and animals are not found anywhere in the world.

15. Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa

This is a small tract along the eastern coast of Africa. It is rich in endemic plants.

16. Eastern Afro-Mountain

The Eastern African-mountain hotspot is scattered along the eastern mountains of Africa. It extends from Saudi Arabia and Yemen in the north to Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe in the south. The climatic and altitudinal diversity has resulted into a number of species of plants and animals.

17. uinean Forests of Western Africa

The lowland forests of West Africa are home to more than a quarter of Africa’s mammals, including more than 20 species of primates.

18. Horn of Africa

Rich in endemic plants and animals, the arid Horn of Africa (Somalia) has a renowned source of biological resources for thousands of years.

19. Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands

Madagascar and its neighbouring island groups have astonishing total of eight plant families, four bird families, and five primate families that live nowhere else in the world.

20. Maputoland’Podoland-Albany

This biodiversity hotspot stretches along the east coast of southern Africa, below the Great Escarpment, and is an important centre of plant endemism.

21. Succulent Karoo

Stretching in Namibia, and South Africa, the Karoo desert has great diversity in endemic plants and animals.


22. East Melanesian Islands

Stretching to the north of New Guinea in South East Asia, the Melanesian Biodiversity Hotspot consists of over 16,000 islands. These islands are rich in endemic plants and animals.

Environment and Ecology