Biodiversity Hotspots [UPSC]

Biodiversity Hotspots

Biodiversity Hotspots

  • Biodiversity hot spot concept by – Norman Myers in 1988.
  • Hot spots are the areas with high density of biodiversity or mega diversity which are
    most threatened at present. There are 35 hot spots in world, out of which two are
    located in India namely North-East Himalayas and Western Ghats.
  • Criteria –
    o Species endemism – it must contain at least 1,500 species of vascular plants (>
    0.5% of the world’s total) as endemics
    o Degree of threat – it has to have lost at least 70% of its original habitat.
  • Each biodiversity hot spot represents a remarkable universe of extraordinary floral and
    faunal endemicity.

Hottest hot spots

Hot spots which are much richer than others in terms of their number of endemics.
5 key factors determine the hotness of hotspot.

  • 1. Endemic plants
    2. Endemic vertebrates
    3. Endemic plants/area ratio (species per 100km
    4. Endemic vertebrate’s/area ratio (species per 100km
    5. Remaining primary vegetation as % of original extent

The eight hottest hot spots in terms of five factors

  • a. Madagascar
    b. Philippines
    c. Sundaland
    d. Brazil’s Atlantic Forest
    e. Caribbean
    f. Indo-Burma
    g. Western Ghats/Sri Lanka.

    h. Eastern Arc and Coastal Forests of Tanzania/Kenya

Indian biodiversity hotspots

3 biodiversity hotspots in India

  • The Eastern Himalayas
  • Indo- Burma
  • The western Ghats & Sri Lanka

Eastern Himalayas hotspot


Bhutan, NE India, Southern, eastern and central Nepal.
Rise of Himalayas resulted in diversity of ecosystems (both in vegetation and animals)


They have no. of threatened species including One-horned Rhinoceros, the Wild Asian
Water buffalo.
10000 species of plants (1/3rd are endemic)
Even on highest riches of Himalayas plant species are found. Example – Ermania
Himalayensis. (6300 meters’ height)
Threatened bird species – Himalayan quail, Cheer pheasant, western tragopan.
Mammals – Golden langur, Himalayan tahr, Pygmy hog, Langurs, Asiatic wild dogs, sloth
bears, Gaurs, Sambar, Snow leopard, Black bear, Blue sheep, Takin, Gangetic dolphi,
wild water buffalo, swamp deer.

Indo – Burma


North-Eastern India (south of Brahmaputra river), Myanmar, the southern part of
China’s Yunnan province, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Cambodia, Vietnam and
Spread – 2 million square km.
Wide diversity of climate and habitat patterns.


Deterioration of wilderness with faster pace.
Large mammals – Large-antlered muntjac, Annamite muntjac, Grey-shanked douc,
Annamite striped rabbit, Leaf deer, and the Saola.
Home to primate species – monkeys, langurs and gibbons
Endemic species – freshwater turtles.
1300 bird species – many threatened – white-eared night – heron, the grey-crowned
crocias, and the orange necked partridge.

Western Ghats and Sri Lanka


Western ghat also known as “Sahyadri Hills”.
It encompasses the mountain forests in the SW parts of India and highlands of SW Sri
Extent – 1,82,500 square kms (originally), but due to tremendous population pressure,
now only 12,445 square km.
    o 6.8% in pristine condition.


Wide variation of rainfall patterns produces a great variety of vegetation types.
It includes –

  • o Scrub forests – in low-lying rain shadow areas.
    o Deciduous and tropical rainforests – up to about 1,500 meters
    o Montane forests and rolling grasslands – above 1,500 meters.

Important populations – include Asian elephant, Nilgiri tahr, Indian tigers, lion tailed
macaque, Giant squirrel etc.

World Heritage Sites

A World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical
Reason for designating sites as World heritage – because having outstanding universal
value under the convention concerning the protection of the World Cultural and Natural


Adopted by the UNESCO in 1972.
It provides a framework for international cooperation in preserving and protecting
cultural treasures and natural areas throughout the world.
It defines the kind of sites which can be considered for inscription of the World
heritage list (ancient monuments, museums, biodiversity and geological heritage
etc.,) and sets out the duties of the State Parties in identifying potential sites and
their role in protecting them.
1st heritage list published – 1978.
The World Heritage Convention reiterates that protection on sites should be
dovetailed with regional planning programs. This is not happening always. (
Agra city
development do not go well the conversation of Taj Mahal is a point)
“Natural heritage sites are restricted to those natural areas that

  • 1. Furnish outstanding examples of the Earth’s geologic processes.
    2. Provide excellent examples of ongoing ecological and biological evolution
    3. Contain natural phenomena that are rare unique, superlative, or of
    outstanding beauty.
    4. Furnish habitats or rare endangered animals or plants or are sites of
    exception biodiversity”.

Nominated sites must be of “outstanding universal value” and meet at least one of the ten
criteria. The criteria are given below.
1. “to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius”.
2. “to exhibit an important interchange of human values”
3. “to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a
civilization which is living or which has disappeared”. Example – Harappan civilization.
4. “to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological
ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage(s) in human history.”
Example – Taj Mahal
5. “to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use,
which is representative of a culture {or cultures), or human interaction with the
6. “to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with
beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance”
7. “to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and
aesthetic importance”
8. “Outstanding examples of Earth’s history or geomorphic processes”
9. “Outstanding ecological and biological processes”
10. “to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for insists conservation
of biological diversity”

International Year of Biodiversity

The UN declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity.
UN declared 22 May as International Day for Biological Diversity.

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