Conservationists are far from able to assist all species under threat, if only for lack of funding. This places a premium on priorities: how can we support the most species at the least cost? One way is to identify ‘biodiversity hotspots’ where exceptional concentrations of endemic species are undergoing exceptional loss of habitat. As many as 44% of all species of vascular plants and 35% of all species in four vertebrate groups are confined to 25 hotspots comprising only 1.4% of the land surface of the Earth. This opens the way for a ‘silver bullet’ strategy on the part of conservation planners, focusing on these hotspots in proportion to their share of the world's species at risk.
This is a preview of subscription content
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Ehrlich, P. R. Energy use and biodiversity loss. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 344, 99–104 ( 1994).
Myers, N. Two key challenges for biodiversity: discontinuities and synergisms. Biodiversity Cons. 5, 1025–1034 (1996).
Pimm, S. L., Russell, G. J., Gittleman, J. L. & Brooks, T. M. The future of biodiversity. Science 269, 347–350 (1995).
Wilson, E. O. The Diversity of Life (Belknap, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1992).
Myers, N. Threatened biotas: ‘hotspots’ in tropical forests. Environmentalist 8, 187–208 (1988).
Myers, N. The biodiversity challenge: expanded hotspots analysis. Environmentalist 10, 243–256 ( 1990).
Pressey, R. L., Humphries, C. J., Margules, C. R., Vane-Wright, R. I. & Williams, P. H. Beyond opportunism: key principles for systematic reserve selection. Trends Ecol. Evol. 8, 124–128 (1993).
Prendergast, J. R., Quinn, R. M. & Lawton, J. H. The gaps between theory and practice in selecting nature reserves. Cons. Biol. 13, 484– 492 (1999).
Ginsberg, J. Global conservation priorities. Cons. Biol. 13, 5 (1999).
Dobson, A. P., Rodriguez, J. P., Roberts, W. M. & Wilcove, D. S. Geographic distribution of endangered species in the United States. Science 275, 550–553 ( 1997).
Reid, W. V. Biodiversity hotspots. Trends Ecol. Evol. 13, 275–280 (1998).
Prendergast, J. R., Quinn, R. M., Lawton, J. H., Eversham, B. C. & Gibbons, D. W. Rare species, the coincidence of diversity hotspots and conservation strategies. Nature 365, 335–337 (1993).
Williams, P. et al. A comparison of richness hotspots, rarity hotspots, and complementary areas for conserving diversity of British birds. Cons. Biol. 10, 155–174 (1996).
Vane-Wright, R. I., Humphries, C. J. & Williams, P. H. What to protect?—systematics and the agony of choice. Biol. Cons. 55, 235– 254 (1991).
Williams, P. H., Humphries, C. J. & Vane-Wright, R. I. Measuring biodiversity: taxonomic relatedness for conservation priorities. Aust. Syst. Bot. 4, 665–679 (1991).
Mittermeier, R. A., Myers, N., Gil, P. R. & Mittermeier, C. G. Hotspots: Earth's Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Terrestrial Ecoregions (Cemex, Conservation International and Agrupacion Sierra Madre, Monterrey, Mexico, 1999).
Davis, S., Heywood, V. H. & Hamilton, A. C. (eds) Centres of Plant Diversity (three vols) (World Wide Fund for Nature and International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Gland, Switzerland, 1994–1997 ).
Groombridge, B. (ed.) Global Biodiversity (Chapman and Hall, London, 1992).
Heywood, V. H. (ed.) Global Biodiversity Assessment (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 1995).
Prance, G. T., Beent J. H., Dransfield, J. & Johns, R. The Tropical Flora Remains Undercollected (Missouri Botanical Garden Scientific Publications, St. Louis, Missouri, in the press).
Nowak, R. Walker's Mammals of the World (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore, Maryland, 1999).
Sibley, C. G. & Monroe, B. L. Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World (Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, Connecticut, 1990).
Uetz, P. & Etzold, T. The EMBL/EBI reptile database. Herpetol. Rev. 27, 175 (1996).
Glaw, F. & Kohler, J. Amphibian species diversity exceeds that of mammals. Herpetol. Rev. 29, 11– 12 (1998).
Eschmeyer, W. M. Catalog of Fishes (California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, 1998).
Janzen, D. H. How to be a fig. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Systemat. 10, 13–51 (1979).
Farrell, B. D. ‘Inordinate Fondness’ explained: why are there so many beetles? Science 281, 555–557 (1998).
Gaston, K. J. Regional numbers of insect and plant species. Funct. Ecol. 6, 243–247 (1991).
Strong, D. R., Lawton, J. H. & Southwood, T. R. E. Insects on Plants: Community Patterns and Mechanisms (Blackwell, Oxford, 1984).
Price, P. W. Insect Ecology 3rd edition (Wiley, New York, 1997).
Balmford A. & Long, A. Across-country analyses of biodiversity congruence with current conservation efforts in the tropics. Cons. Biol. 9, 1539–1547 ( 1996).
Williams, P. H., Gaston, K. & Humphries, C. J. Mapping biodiversity value worldwide: combining higher-taxon richness from different groups. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 264, 141–148 (1997).
MacArthur, R. H. & Wilson, E. O. The Theory of Island Biogeography (Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, 1967).
Brooks, T. & Balmford, A. Atlantic forest extinctions. Nature 380, 115 (1996).
Brooks, T., Pimm, S. L. & Collar, N. J. Deforestation predicts the number of threatened birds in Insular Southeast Asia. Cons. Biol. 11, 382–394 (1997).
Brooks, T. M., Pimm, S. L. & Oyugi, J. O. Time lag between deforestation and bird extinction in tropical forest fragments. Cons. Biol. 13, 1140–1150 (1999).
Laurance, W. F. Introduction and synthesis. Biol. Cons. 91, 101–107 (1999).
Gaston, K. J. & Nicholls, A. O. Probable times to extinction of some rare breeding bird species in the United Kingdom. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 259, 119–123 (1995).
Turner, I. M. Species loss in fragments of tropical rain forests: a review of the evidence. J. Appl. Ecol. 33, 200– 209 (1996).
Pimm, S. L. & Askins, R. A. Forest losses predict bird extinctions in Eastern North America. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 92, 9343–9347 (1995).
Cowlinshaw, G. Predicting the pattern of decline of African primate diversity: an extinction debt from historical deforestation. Cons. Biol. 13, 1183–1193 (1999).
Newmark, W. D. Insularization of Tanzanian parks and the local extinction of large mammals. Cons. Biol. 10, 1549–1556 (1996).
Tilman, D., May, R. M., Lehman, C. L. & Nowak, M. A. Habitat destruction and the extinction debt. Nature 371, 65–66 (1994).
Stattersfield, A. J., Crosby, M. J., Long, A. J. & Wege, D. C. Endemic Bird Areas of the World: Priorities for Biodiversity Conservation (Birdlife International, Cambridge, UK, 1998).
Dinerstein, E. et al. The Global 200: Key Ecoregions for Saving Life on Earth (World Wildlife Fund-US, Washington DC, 1996).
Mittermeier, R. A., Myers, N., Thomsen, J. B., da Fonseca, G. A. B. & Olivieri, S. Biodiversity hotspots and major tropical wilderness areas: approaches to setting conservation priorities. Cons. Biol. 12, 516– 520 (1998).
James, A. N., Gaston, K. J. & Balmford, A. Balancing the Earth's accounts. Nature 401, 323–324 (1999).
Myers, N. Lifting the veil on perverse subsidies. Nature 392, 327–328 (1999).
We thank P. Robles Gil of Agrupacion Sierra Madre and the scientists listed in Supplementary Information for their help with information and analysis; P. Chambers, S. Norris and M. Prescott for research help; and D. Duthie and J. McNeely for comments on an early draft. We also thank the Mexican company CEMEX for its major financial support, and the MacArthur Foundation and S. Concannon for additional support.
About this article
Cite this article
Myers, N., Mittermeier, R., Mittermeier, C. et al. Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403, 853–858 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1038/35002501
The patterns of co-occurrence variation are explained by the low dependence of bark beetles (Coleoptera: Scolytinae and Platypodinae) on hosts along altitude gradients
Frontiers in Zoology (2022)
Effects of landscape configuration on the occurrence and abundance of an arboreal marsupial from the Valdivian rainforest
Revista Chilena de Historia Natural (2022)
Developing long-term conservation priority planning for medicinal plants in China by combining conservation status with diversity hotspot analyses and climate change prediction
BMC Biology (2022)
A novel in situ passive heating method for evaluating whole-tree responses to daytime warming in remote environments
Plant Methods (2022)
Population genetic structure and phenotypic diversity of Aspidodera raillieti (Nematoda: Heterakoidea), a parasite of Didelphini marsupials in Brazil’s South and Southeast Atlantic Forest
Parasites & Vectors (2022)