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Biodiversity Hotspots in India, and Threats to Hotspot in India

Biodiversity refers to the diversity of plant and animal species in a specific habitat. The species richness and species evenness are the two main components of biodiversity. With approximately 91,000 known animal species and 45,500 known plant species, India is known for having a diversified ecosystem. Trees and forests cover 23.39% of its territory.

The Himalayas, Western Ghats, Indo-Burma region, and Sundaland are among the 36 biodiversity hotspots on earth, and they are all found in India. The Indo-Burma region and Sundaland are two of them that are dispersed over South Asia and not precisely contained within India’s official borders.

Biological Hotspot

Norman Myers (1988) developed the term “biodiversity hotspot” upon finding 10 tropical forests as “hotspots” due to their high levels of habitat loss and plant endemism. However, it lacked any quantitative standards for identifying an ecological hotspot in a region. He added eight additional hotspots two years later, bringing the total number of hotspots in the world to 18.

The first comprehensive update of the hotspots was created by Conservation International (CI), which collaborated with Myers. For a region to be considered a hotspot, CI then imposed the two strict quantitative standards listed below:

  • It should contain at least 1,500 species of vascular plants (> 0.5% of the world’s total) as endemics.
  • It must have lost ≥ 70% of its original native habitat.

Who Declares Biodiversity Hotspots?

Hotspots were first introduced by Conservation International, who also promoted them. In 1989, just one year after scientist Norman Myers’ essay popularized the idea of protecting these breathtaking locales, Conservation International was established.

Biodiversity Hotspots in India

Numerous rare and vulnerable plant and animal species can be found in large numbers in India’s biodiversity hotspots. Four of the 36 Biodiversity Hotspots in the world—the Himalayas, the Indo-Burma region, the Western Ghats, and Sundaland—are located in India, according to official figures. Because of their peculiar flora and fauna, the Sundarbans and the Terrai-Duar Savannah grasslands could also be considered among India’s biodiversity hotspots. Indian Hotspot region have been listed below:

  • Himalaya: Includes the entire Indian Himalayan region (and that falling in Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar)
  • Indo-Burma: Includes entire North-eastern India, except Assam and Andaman group of Islands (and Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and southern China)
  • Sundalands: Includes Nicobar group of Islands (and Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Philippines)
  • Western Ghats and Sri Lanka: Includes entire Western Ghats (and Sri Lanka)

Biodiversity Hotspots in India, and Threats to Hotspot in India_4.1

Himalayan Hotspot

The Himalaya Hotspot is home to the world’s highest mountains, including Mt. Everest. The mountains rise abruptly, resulting in a diversity of ecosystems that range from alluvial grasslands and subtropical broadleaf forests to alpine meadows above the tree line. Vascular plants have even been recorded at more than 6,000 m. The hotspot is home to important populations of numerous large birds and mammals, including vultures, tigers, elephants, rhinos and wild water buffalo.

Particulars Data
Hotspot Original Extent (km²) 741,706
Hotspot Vegetation Remaining (km²) 185,427
Endemic Plant Species 3,160
Endemic Threatened Birds 8
Endemic Threatened Mammals 4
Endemic Threatened Amphibians 4
Extinct Species† 0
Human Population Density (people/km²) 123
Area Protected (km²) 112,578

Species Diversity and Endemism in Himalayan Hotspot

Taxonomic Group Total Species Endemic Species Endemism (%)
Plants 10,000 3,160 31.6
Mammals 300 12 4.0
Birds 977 15 1.5
Reptiles 176 48 27.3
Amphibians 105 42 40.0
Freshwater Fishes 269 33 12.3

Biogeographically, the Himalayan Mountain Range straddles a transition zone between the Palearctic and Indo-Malayan realms. Species from both realms are represented in the hotspot. In addition, geological, climatic and altitudinal variations in the hotspot, as well as topographic complexity, contribute to the biological diversity of the mountains along their east-west and north-south axes.

Threats to Himalayan Hotspots

  • Human Interference: Despite their apparent remoteness and inaccessibility, the Himalayas have not been spared human-induced biodiversity loss. People have lived in the mountains of the Himalayas for thousands of years. In recent decades, greater access to the global market has increased the demand for natural resources in the area encouraged both immigration from outside (such as
    Arunachal Pradesh) and movement within the region (such as in Nepal). As a result, populations are growing in the most productive ecosystems, which are also some of the richest in biodiversity.
  • Overgrazing by domestic livestock, including cattle and domesticated yak, is widespread in the lowlands and alpine ecosystems.
  • Poaching is a serious problem in the Himalayan Mountains, with tigers and rhinoceros hunted for their body parts for traditional Chinese medicine, while snow leopards and red pandas are sought for their beautiful pelts.
  • Other threats to biodiversity and forest integrity include mining, the construction of roads and large dams, and pollution due to the use of agrochemicals

Indo-Burma Hotspots

Encompassing more than 2 million km² of tropical Asia, Indo-Burma is still revealing its biological treasures. Six large mammal species have been discovered in the last 12 years: the large-antlered muntjac, the Annamite muntjac, the grey-shanked douc, the Annamite striped rabbit, the leaf deer, and the saola.

This hotspot also holds remarkable endemism in freshwater turtle species, most of which are threatened with extinction, due to over-harvesting and extensive habitat loss. Bird life in IndoBurma is also incredibly diverse, holding almost 1,300 different bird species, including the threatened white-eared night-heron, the grey-crowned crocias, and the orange-necked partridge.

Particulars Data
Hotspot Original Extent (km²) 2,373,057
Hotspot Vegetation Remaining (km²) 118,653
Endemic Plant Species 7,000
Endemic Threatened Birds 18
Endemic Threatened Mammals 25
Endemic Threatened Amphibians 35
Extinct Species† 1
Human Population Density (people/km²) 134
Area Protected (km²) 235,758

Species Diversity and Endemism in Indo-Burma Hotspot

Taxonomic Group Total Species Endemic Species Endemism (%)
Plants 13,500 7,000 51.9
Mammals 433 73 16.4
Birds 1,266 64 5.1
Reptiles 522 204 39.1
Amphibians 286 154 53.8
Freshwater Fishes 1,262 553 43.8

Threats to Indo-Burma Hotspots

  • Human Interference
  • Overexploitation of natural resources
  • Commercial logging has been particularly intense in lowland evergreen forests
  • Overfishing and the increasing use of destructive fishing techniques is a significant problem in both coastal and offshore marine ecosystems.

Sundaland Hotspots

The Sundaland hotspot covers the western half of the Indo-Malayan archipelago, an arc of some 17,000 equatorial islands, and is dominated by two of the largest islands in the world: Borneo (725,000 km²) and Sumatra (427,300 km²). More than a million years ago, the islands of Sundaland were connected to mainland Asia.

Particulars Data
Hotspot Original Extent (km²) 1,501,063
Hotspot Vegetation Remaining (km²) 100,571
Endemic Plant Species 15,000
Endemic Threatened Birds 43
Endemic Threatened Mammals 60
Endemic Threatened Amphibians 59
Extinct Species† 4
Human Population Density (people/km²) 153
Area Protected (km²) 179,723

Species Diversity and Endemism in Sundaland Hotspot

Taxonomic Group Total Species Endemic Species Endemism (%)
Plants 25,000 15,000 60.0
Mammals 380 172 45.3
Birds 769 142 18.5
Reptiles 452 243 53.8
Amphibians 244 196 80.3
Freshwater Fishes 950 350 36.8

Threats to Sundaland Hotspots

The spectacular flora and fauna of the Sundaland Hotspot are succumbing to the explosive growth of industrial forestry in these islands and to the international animal trade that claims tigers, monkeys, and turtle species for food and medicine in other countries.

  • Human Interference
  • Deforestation
  • Commercial and illegal Logging
  • Poaching

Western Ghat and Sri Lanka Hotspot

The Western Ghats of southwestern India and the highlands of southwestern Sri Lanka, separated by 400 kilometers, are strikingly similar in their geology, climate and evolutionary history. The Western Ghats, known locally as the Sahyadri Hills, are formed by the Malabar Plains and the chain of mountains running parallel to India’s western coast, about 30 to 50 kilometers inland. They cover an area of about 160,000 km² and stretch for 1,600 km from the country’s southern tip to Gujarat in the north, interrupted only by the 30 km Palakkad Gap.

Particulars Data
Hotspot Original Extent (km²) 189,611
Hotspot Vegetation Remaining (km²) 43,611
Endemic Plant Species 3,049
Endemic Threatened Birds 10
Endemic Threatened Mammals 14
Endemic Threatened Amphibians 87
Extinct Species† 20
Human Population Density (people/km²) 261
Area Protected (km²) 26,130

Species Diversity and Endemism in Western Ghat and Sri Lanka Hotspot

Taxonomic Group Total Species Endemic Species Endemism (%)
Plants 5,916 3,049 51.5
Mammals 140 18 12.9
Birds 458 35 7.6
Reptiles 267 174 65.2
Amphibians 178 130 73.0
Freshwater Fishes 191 139 72.8

Threats to Western Ghat and Sri Lanka Hotspots

  • Human Interference
  • Growth of populations around protected areas
  • Commercial and illegal Logging
  • Poaching

List of Biodiversity Hotspots of the World

Forests and other remnant habitats are only located on 2.5% of the planet’s land surface, mostly in hotspots. Biodiversity Hotspots include some of the most valuable and vital ecosystems on earth, and many of their vulnerable inhabitants depend on nature to thrive.

36 major Biodiversity Hotspots in the world are:

  • Mountains of Central Asia
  • The Mediterranean basin and its Eastern Coastal region
  • Iran-Anatolia region
  • Caucasus region
  • Atlantic forest
  • Tropical Andes
  • Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena
  • Chilean winter rainfall (Valdivian) Forests
  • Brazil’s Cerrado
  • The Mesoamerican forests
  • Modrean pine-oak woodlands of the USA and Mexico border
  • Caribbean islands hotspot
  • California Floristic Province
  • South-Western Australia
  • Polynesia and Micronesian Islands Complex, including Hawaii
  • The Western Ghats
  • Wallace
  • Western Sunda
  • Philippine biodiversity hotspot
  • New Zealand biodiversity hotspot
  • New Caledonia
  • Mountains of South-West China
  • Japan biodiversity hotspot
  • The Eastern Himalayas
  • Himalayan hotspot
  • Coastal forests of Eastern Africa
  • South Africa’s Cape floristic hotspot
  • East Melanesian islands
  • Succulent Karou
  • Maputoland, Podoland, Albany hotspot
  • Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands
  • Horn of Africa
  • The Guinean forests of Western Africa
  • Eastern Afro-Montane
  • Sunderbans
  • Sundaland

8 Hottest Hotspots of Biodiversity

Tropical regions make up the majority of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, which do not account for changing land-use trends. Hotspots are places where many habitats have been lost. This does not necessarily imply that it is still occurring, though.

8 hottest Hotspots of Biodiversity are:

  • The Philippines
  • Madagascar
  • Wallacea (eastern Indonesia)
  • South Africa’s Cape floristic region
  • Brazil’s Atlantic Forest Region
  • Western Sunda (in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei)
  • The Tropical Andes (Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia)
  • Meso-American forests

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Biological Hotspots in India FAQs

What are Biodiversity Hotspots in India?

A Biodiversity Hotspot is a region with a significant number of species. These ecological hotspots are essential for maintaining ecosystem balance.

How many Biodiversity Hotspots in India?

India has four major Biodiversity hotspots – the Eastern Himalayas, Indo-Burma region, Western Ghats, and Sundaland.

Why are Hotspots of Biodiversity important?

Because biodiversity is the foundation of all life on Earth, these biodiversity hotspots are of immense global significance because they house unique species and habitats.

Which is the hottest Biodiversity Hotspot in India?

The Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats are India’s top biodiversity hotspots.

Which is the largest Biodiversity Hotspot in India?

The Himalayas are considered to be the largest Biodiversity hotspot in India.

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