National Geographic News
Today conservationists named nine new "biodiversity hotspots"areas of mind-boggling species richness that are under constant assault from human activity. The label highlights the regions as priorities for the world's conservation efforts.
One hotspot is a crucial stopover for migrating monarch butterflies. Another has the highest tree richness of any temperate region on the planet. And yet another is a mountain refuge for vultures, tigers, and wild water buffalo. All the newly named hotspots have lost at least 70 percent of their original natural habitat.
The announcement was made by the Washington, D.C.-based Conservation International. The nonprofit also launched Hotspots Revisited, a book detailing a four-year analysis of its global hotspot strategy for biodiversity conservation.
"The hotspots strategy really intends to pick out regions across the globe where we need to go first to be effective in saving species," said Michael Hoffmann, a biodiversity analyst with Conservation International and contributing author to Hotspots Revisited.
The organization now recognizes a total of 34 biodiversity hotspots. About half of all plant and animal species on Earth are found in the hotspots, which originally covered 15.7 percent of Earth's surface area. Only about a tenth of that original habitat remains.
The hotspots range from the African island nation of Madagascar to the Indian Ocean islands, which are home to 24 families of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. The Madrean pine-oak woodlands, a rugged mountainous area stretching from Mexico to the southwestern United States, was also highlighted.
By focusing attention on these regions, conservationists hope to maximize their efforts at saving as many species as possible from extinction.
Stuart Pimma conservation biologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and a member of the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Explorationsaid the hotspot strategy is effective at channeling conservation efforts.
"We need to have a guideline of where to go, and it does help us focus our attention on areas that are important and disappearing quickly," he said.
The concept of biodiversity hotspots was penned by British ecologist Norman Myers in 1988 as a means to address the dilemma of identifying the areas most important for preserving species.
Myers recognized thatdespite their relatively small sizescertain ecosystems account for a high percentage of global biodiversity. Many of these same areas face tremendous pressure from logging, agriculture, hunting, and climate change, scientists say.
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES