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ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY
ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY

Biodiversity Hotspots

Biodiversity Hotspots

Biodiversity hotspots make up less than 3 percent of Earth’s land surface and refer to regions that are both rich with life and at high risk for destruction.

Grades

5 - 8

Subjects

Biology, Climatology, Earth Science, Ecology

Image

New Zealand Biodiversity Hotspot

The island nation of New Zealand is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, and the unique species that call it home contribute to the world's biodiversity.

Photograph by Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

From lush rainforests to majestic mountains, some regions of Earth are simply irreplaceable. Many of these regions are biodiversity hotspots—areas that are both rich with life and at high risk for destruction.

Biodiversity hotspots make up about 2.3 percent of Earth’s land surface, but 44 percent of the world’s plants and 35 percent of land vertebrates live in these regions. Most plants in a biodiversity hotspot are endemic, meaning they are not found anywhere else on Earth. Yet biodiversity hotspots are, by definition, in a conservation crisis. To be classified as a biodiversity hotspot, a region must have lost at least 70 percent of its original natural vegetation, usually due to human activity.

There are over 30 recognized biodiversity hotspots in the world. The Andes Mountains Tropical Hotspot is the world’s most diverse hotspot. About one-sixth of all plant species in the world live in this region. The New Zealand archipelago is another hotspot. Life on New Zealand evolved in isolation, so the islands contain many species not found anywhere else. More than 90 percent of the insects and 80 percent of the vascular plants in New Zealand are endemic to the region. The Himalayan region contains the tallest mountains in the world, as well as incredible animals found only there, including the giant panda, the wild water buffalo, and the black-necked crane—the only alpine crane in the world. Deforestation and climate change have made the Himalaya a biodiversity hotspot.

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Director
Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
Author
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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