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Biodiversity Hot Spots in India and around the World

Andes mountain range

Hot Spots of the World

No, I am not talking about the hot spots of the Internet, I am talking about something without which we, humans, and our earth will not survive. I am talking about a few remaining areas in the world which account for 35% of ecosystem services and they support more than half of the world’s plant species despite being located only on 2.5% of the land. Yes, you are right I am talking about biodiversity hot spots. There are 36 Biodiversity hotspots in the world and the majority of them are in the tropics. The term was coined by Norman Myers in 1988 when he identified 10 tropical forest regions with an extraordinary level of plant endemism and a high level of habitat loss without any quantitative criteria for the designation of the status. Later after two years, he added eight more hotspots.

 

The Criteria

So first of all, before learning about the criteria to qualify certain regions as Hot Spots for Biodiversity, we should know what is biodiversity and why it is necessary.

According to WWF, Biodiversity is all the different kinds of life you’ll find in one area—the variety of animals, plants, fungi, and even microorganisms like bacteria that make up our natural world. Each of these species and organisms works together in ecosystems, like an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life.

There are three levels of biodiversity:

  1. Genetic Level – the diversity in the genes of a particular organism/species. Genetic diversity ensures a healthy organism, is better adapted to its environment.
  2. Species Level – the diversity at Species-level is a variety of species within a particular region and can be measured by species richness. Species richness at different trophic level ensures the stability of the ecosystem.
  3. Ecosystem Level – Different types of ecosystems make a particular region stable and ensure to the provision of various ecosystem services.

 

According to Conservation International, any region to qualify as Biodiversity Hotspot must meet two strict criteria.

  1. 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, in other words, is irreplaceable.
  2. It must have 30% or less of its original natural vegetation. In other words, it must be threatened.

On the basis of the above criteria, 36 regions in different continents are found to be the hotspots for Biodiversity. Andes Mountains tropical forests are the most biodiversity-rich area of the world. About 1/6th of the World’s plant species live in this region. High mountains, islands, and lush green tropical forests are biodiversity hotspots because of their altitudinal and ecological isolation. This isolation makes most of the species found in this region endemic (i.e., distribution is restricted to that region only).

 

african forest range

 

Here is the list of biodiversity hotspots of the world

  1. Tropical Andes
  2. Tumbes- Choco- Magdalena
  3. Madrean Pine- Oak Woodlands
  4. Cerrado
  5. Chilean Winter Rainfall and Valdivian Forests
  6. Atlantic Forests
  7. Mesoamerica
  8. Caribbean Island
  9. California Floristic Province
  10. Guinean Forests of West Africa
  11. Cape Floristic Region
  12. Succulent Karoo
  13. Maputaland- Pondoland- Albany
  14. Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa
  15. Eastern Afromontane
  16. Horn of Africa
  17. Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Island
  18. Mediterranean Basin
  19. Caucasus
  20. Irano Anatolian
  21. Mountains of Central Asia
  22. Western Ghats and Sri lanka
  23. Himalayas
  24. Mountains of Southwest China
  25. Indo Burma
  26. Sundaland
  27. Wallacea
  28. Philippines
  29. Japan
  30. Southwest Australia
  31. East Melanesian Island
  32. New Zealand
  33. New Caledonia
  34. Polynasia – Micronesia
  35. Forests of East Australia
  36. North American Coastal Plain

Source: Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF)

 

Biodiversity Hot Spots in India

India is one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world, it has four Biodiversity hotspots, ten different biogeographic zones, and sixteen forest types. Being a geographical unit, they are not restricted to the political boundaries of a nation.

1. Himalayas

this includes the Western, Central, and Eastern Himalayas. It covers all eight Himalayan states of India. The Himalayan Mountain range covers almost 7,50,00 Km². The high altitudinal variation supports a variety of ecosystems which includes Alluvial Grassland and Subtropical Broadleaf forests along the foothills, temperate broadleaf forests at mid-altitude, mixed conifer and conifer forests at high altitude, and Alpine meadows above the tree line. The Himalayan hotspot represents 300 species of Mammals (including 12 endemic species), 980 species of birds with 15 endemics, 175 reptile species with 48 endemic species, 105 Amphibian species with 40% endemism, 270 species of fish with 30 endemics. There are 10,000 species of plant recorded from the Himalayan region of which about 3,160 are endemic.

 

Himalayan ranges in India

 

2. Indo Burma

This is the largest among all 36 hotspots, it includes part of North-Eastern India, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. It includes Eastern extensions of the Himalayas and several of Asia’s largest rivers and their fertile floodplains. It has a very diverse geography, from the highest mountain in Southeast Asia to the coastline along the Bay of Bengal, the Andaman Sea, the Gulf of Thailand, and the South China Sea. Due to its variety of landforms, it supports various habitat types and high biodiversity. It supports a variety of forest types which includes evergreen, semi-evergreen, and deciduous forests. The region is estimated to support 15,000 to 25,000 species of vascular plants of which around 50% are endemic. It harbors 470 species of Mammal of which 1/5th are globally threatened, more than 1300 species of birds, 670 species of reptiles with one-fourth as endemic, 380 species of amphibians with more than half are endemic and 1440 species of fish. The Indo-Burma region is known for its high Vertebrate diversity.

 

Indo Burma Ranges

 

3. Sundaland

it covers around 17000 islands in the Western Half of the Indonesian Archipelago. The hotspot covers around 1.6 million km². it covers a portion of Southern Thailand, the entire of Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia with Nicobar Island under the jurisdiction of India. It is one of the richest hotspots, harboring around 25,000 vascular plants with 60% endemism. it has 769 species of birds with 142 are endemic and 43 are Globally threatened, 380 species of Mammals with 172 endemics and 60 threatened, 452 species of reptiles with 243 endemics 244 species of Amphibians with 194 endemics and 59 threatened, 950 species of of fish with 350 endemics.

 

4. Western Ghats & Sri Lanka

Being separated by a sea of around 400 Km. both these areas have striking similarities in their geology, climate, and evolutionary history covering an area of 1,86,611 km². Western Ghat is recently declared a world heritage site by UNESCO and it covers around 5% of the total area of India. There are 7,402 species of plants have been recorded from the Western ghats with 24 Endemic genera, 508 species of birds with 29 endemics to the Western Ghats and 15 are threatened, 131 species of Amphibian with 114 species are confined to this region, 227 species of reptiles with 107 species are endemic and 18 are threatened, 137 species of Mammals with 16 endemics. Western Ghat is also home to 30% Asian Elephant population and 17% of the Tiger population of the world.

 

The above biodiversity-rich regions are threatened by various factors which include deforestation, habitat degradation and fragmentation, poaching and illegal trade, over and unsustainable resource extraction, and global warming and if we do not act now, we will lose them forever.

 

Know more about the Wildlife Conservationists in India, Project Tiger – Tiger Conservation in India, and Best National Parks in India.

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