Setting Priorities

The number of species threatened with extinction far outstrips available conservation resources; therefore at some point priorities must be set. Biodiversity "hotspots" have been defined as places in the world where there are high concentrations of endemic species that are undergoing exceptional loss of habitat (Myers et al. 2000). As many as 44% of all species of vascular plants and 35% of all species of four vertebrate groups are confined to 25 hotspots comprising only 1.4% of the land surface of the Earth. Should we concentrate our efforts on protecting these "hotspots?" This is an example of how knowledge of the distribution of biodiversity can be used in designing an effective strategy for conservation and management. The hotspots strategy does not exclude other areas from urgent conservation in accord with alternative criteria. For example, patterns of speciation should also be considered when determining conservation priorities (Myers 2003). There is a large degree of overlap between the biodiversity hotspots and other internationally recognized initiatives for conservation, such as the IUCN/WWF International Centers of Plant Diversity and Endemism and the endangered eco-regions of the WWF/US Global 200 List. The hotspots thesis has the potential to reduce the mass extinction under way by about one-third and has been considered as the most important contribution to conservation in the last century (Myers 2003).

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