Here is a list of hottest hotspots of the world: 1. The Western Ghats and Sri Lanka 2. The Eastern Himalayas 3. Indo-Burma 4. Sundaland.
1. The Western Ghats and Sri Lanka:
The Western Ghats and the sahyadri mountain ranges separate the Deccan Plateau from the narrow coastal plain along the Arabian Sea. It starts south of the Tapi River in Gujarat and runs about 1600 km through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, ending at Kanyakumari, the southern tip of the Peninsular India
The main peaks of the Western Ghats are- Asthamudi (2695m), Doddabetta (2636m), Mukurthi (2554m) and Kodaikanal (2133m).
There are 5000 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species and 179 amphibian species. According to one estimate, 325 globally threatened species are found in the Western Ghats.
The region is ecologically sensitive to development and are protected including two biosphere reserves, 13 national parks and several wildlife sanctuaries to protect the endangered species of the region.
The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve of the evergreen forests of Nagarhole, the Bandipur National Park covered with deciduous forest, the Tamil Nadu national Park and Mukurthi national park in the states of Tamilnadu and Kerala are the important protected areas.
Sri Lanka, which lies to the south of India, is also a country rich in species diversity. It has been connected with India through several past glaciation events by a land bridge almost 140km wide.
There are over 6000 vascular plants belonging to over 2500 genera in this hotspot, of which over 3000 are endemic.
Much of the world’s spices such as black pepper and cardamom have their origins in the Western Ghats.
The highest concentration of species in the Western Ghats is believed to be the Agasthyamalai Hills in the extreme south. The region also harbors over 450 bird species, about 140 mammalian species, 260 reptiles and 175 amphibians.
Over 60% of the reptiles and amphibians are completely endemic to the hotspot. The vegetation in this hotspot originally extended over 190,000 square km. Presently its been reduced to just 43,000 sq. km. In Sri Lanka, only 1.5% of the original forests cover still remains.
The Lion tailed macaque is a flagship species of the Western Ghats
2. The Eastern Himalayas:
The Eastern Himalayas is the region encompassing Bhutan, northeastern India, and southern, central, and eastern Nepal.
Together, the Himalayan mountain system is the world’s youngest and home to the world’s highest peaks, which include Mount Everest and K2. The Himalayan system includes over 100 mountains exceeding 7200 metres.
Some of the world’s major river systems arise in the Himalayas and their combined drainage basin is home to some 3 billion people (almost half of Earth’s population) in 18 countries.
The Eastern Himalayan hotspot has nearly 163 globally threatened species including the One-horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), the Wild Asian Water buffalo [Bubalusbubalis (Arnee)] and in all 45 mammals, 50 birds, 17 reptiles, 12 amphibians, 3 invertebrate and 36 plant species.
The Relict Dragonfly (Epiophlebialaidlawi) is an endangered species found here with the only other species in the genus being found in Japan.
The region is also home to the Himalayan Newt (Tylototritonverrucosus), the only salamander species found within Indian limits.
There are an estimated 10,000 species of plants in the Himalayas, of which one-third are endemic and found nowhere else in the world. Five families – Tetracentraceae, Hamamelidaceae, Circaesteraceae, Butomaceae and Stachyuraceae – are completely endemic to this region.
Many plant species are found even in the highest reaches of the Himalayan Mountains. E.g. a plant species Ermaniahimalayensis was found at an altitude of 6300 metres in northwestern Himalayas.
A few threatened endemic bird species such as the Himalayan Quail, Cheer pheasant, Western tragopan are found here, along with some of Asia’s largest and most endangered birds such as the Himalayan vulture and White-bellied heron.
The Saola, a bovine, is one of the world’s rarest mammals and was discovered in Vietnam only in 1992.
The Himalayas are home to over 300 species of mammals, a dozen of which are endemic. Mammals like the Golden langur, The Himalayan tahr, the pygmy hog, Langurs, Asiatic wild dogs, sloth bears, Gaurs, Muntjac, Sambar, Snow leopard, Black bear, Blue sheep, Takin, the Gangetic dolphin, wild water buffalo, swamp deer call the Himalayan ranged their home.
The only endemic genus in the hotspot is the Namadapha flying squirrel, which is critically endangered and is described only from a single specimen from Namdapha National Park.
The Indian Rhinoceros is one of the 45 species of globally threatened mammals found in the Eastern Himalayas.
The Indo-Burma region encompasses several countries. It is spread out from Eastern Bangladesh to Malaysia and includes Northeastern India south of Brahmaputra River, Myanmar, the southern part of China’s Yunnan province, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.
The Indo-Burma region is spread over 2 million sq. km of tropical Asia. Since this hotspot is spread over such a large area and across several major landforms, there is a wide diversity of climate and habitat patterns in this region.
Much of this region is still a wilderness, but has been deteriorating rapidly in the past few decades.
In recent times, six species of large mammals have been discovered here: Large- antlered muntjac, Annamite muntjac, Grey-shanked douc, Annamite striped rabbit, Leaf deer, and the Saola.
This region is home to several primate species such as monkeys, langurs and gibbons with populations numbering only in the hundreds.
Almost 1,300 bird species exist in this region including the threatened white-eared night heron, the grey-crowned crocias, and the orange-necked partridge.
It is estimated that there are about 13,500 plant species in this hotspot, with over half of them endemic. E.g. Ginger is native to this region.
Sundaland is a region in South-East Asia that covers the western part of the Indo- Malayan archipelago.
It includes Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia. India is represented by the Nicobar Islands.
The United Nations declared the islands a World Biosphere Reserve in 2013. The islands have a rich terrestrial and marine ecosystem that includes mangroves, coral reefs and sea grass beds. The marine biodiversity includes several species such as whales, dolphins, dugong, turtles, crocodiles, fishes, prawns, lobsters, corals and seashells.
The primary threat to this biodiversity comes from over exploitation of marine resources.
Endemism is the occurrence of a certain plant or animal species in a particular area alone, meaning they are confined only to particular region or locality.
It is an isolated distribution of a species.
De Candole enunciated the idea of Endemic distribution of plants for the first time.
Lion-tailed macaque, Nilgiri langur, Brown Palm civet and Nilgiri tahr are endemic fauna of importance in the Western Ghats.
Red Sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus) is endemic to the region of the Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
1. Endemic species and habitats are given first preference for conservation due to the rarity of occurrence. Once lost, they are irrecoverable.
2. The concept of biodiversity hotspots and hottest sports is based on the degree of availability of endemic species in the area, and such areas are conserved in priority.
3. These species occupy very little area and grow by inbreeding, hence require further care.
If such endemic population becomes extinct, it would be irrecoverable loss to the ecosystem and ultimately it would disturb the balance of the ecosystem.
Endangered species are those that face severe threat of extinction and are available in very few numbers. These species are likely to become extinct if prevailing situation continues and remedial measures are not taken.
Currently 15 bird species from India are on the critically endangered list according to International union for conservation of nature (IUCN), which is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization.
According to Ministry of Environment and Forests, fifty-seven animals are critically endangered in India in 2011.
Among the endangered species in India there are:
a. 79 species of mammals
b. 44 species of birds
c. 15 species of reptiles
d. 3 species of amphibians
e. 15000 species of plants.