Global hotspots of species richness are not congruent with endemism or threat

Abstract

Biodiversity hotspots have a prominent role in conservation biology1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, but it remains controversial to what extent different types of hotspot are congruent4,10,11,12,13,14. Previous studies were unable to provide a general answer because they used a single biodiversity index, were geographically restricted, compared areas of unequal size or did not quantitatively compare hotspot types1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22. Here we use a new global database on the breeding distribution of all known extant bird species to test for congruence across three types of hotspot. We demonstrate that hotspots of species richness, threat and endemism do not show the same geographical distribution. Only 2.5% of hotspot areas are common to all three aspects of diversity, with over 80% of hotspots being idiosyncratic. More generally, there is a surprisingly low overall congruence of biodiversity indices, with any one index explaining less than 24% of variation in the other indices. These results suggest that, even within a single taxonomic class, different mechanisms are responsible for the origin and maintenance of different aspects of diversity. Consequently, the different types of hotspots also vary greatly in their utility as conservation tools.

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Figure 1: Geographical distribution of three aspects of diversity.
Figure 2: Biodiversity hotspots for three aspects of diversity.
Figure 3: Extent of congruence between hotspots.

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Acknowledgements

We thank B. Beehler, L. Birch, T. Brooks, B. Coates, J. Cromie, J. Diamond, J. Eckstrom, S. Elsworthy, H. Fry, E. Harvey, A. Headon, P. Higgins, D. McNicol, D. Mehlman, C. Perrins, J. Price, R. Porter, H. Pratt, R. Prys-Jones, N. Redman, C. Robertson, B. Sheldon, I. Sherman, R. Simpson, I. Sinclair, A. Silcocks, M. Strange, M. Unwin, E. Urban, M. Weston, M. Whitby, P. Williams, D. Wynn, B. Young, J. Zook, A. and C. Black. We also thank Academic Press, BirdGuides, BirdLife International, Birds Australia, C. Helm, Conservation International, NatureServe, Oxford Univ. Press, the Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Princeton Univ. Press, the Alexander Library (Oxford), and the Natural History Museum (Tring) for access to data and libraries; and M. Balman, S. Butchart, T. Brooks, M. Cardillo, W. Jetz, A. Phillimore, H. Possingham, A. Purvis and W. Sechrest for comments or help. This work was funded by The Natural Environment Research Council.

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Correspondence to Ian P. F. Owens.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Figure 1

Map showing the location of hotspot regions.

Supplementary Methods

Technical description of mapping methods and list of references.

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Orme, C., Davies, R., Burgess, M. et al. Global hotspots of species richness are not congruent with endemism or threat. Nature 436, 1016–1019 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03850

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