Evolution has created four kingdoms of living organisms: fungi, animals, plants, and bacteria. Each one produces a variety of species whose purpose is to support and maintain the health of its ecosystem.
The existence of individual species has been driven by genetic diversity and environmental pressure, which in turn supports species diversity and the important roles of energy flow through the food chain, nutrient cycling, habitat regeneration, reproduction, and population control.
These two forms of diversity, genetic and species, allow for a variety of ecosystems to exist across the globe in different climates and environmental conditions because the species present fulfill the essential roles needed to maintain an ecosystem and produce enough resources to support human life.
Genetic diversity provides a vast range of characteristics that ensure the survival of a species when environmental changes occur, in turn supporting species diversity and the interactions of that community and ensuring their ability to perform their roles in their ecological niches.
In each ecosystem, different species are adapted to survive the environmental conditions present there. All inhabitants of planet Earth rely on the balance of life in each of these unique environments.
Having learned how species support the health of their ecosystems—and how ecosystems are interconnected with each other—and having covered some of the important ecosystem services they provide to us, we are going to take a look at biodiversity hotspots.
Biodiversity hotspots are regions of the world that contain high levels of species diversity, including species not found anywhere else in the world, and a significant number of threatened or endangered species. Since the term “biodiversity hotspot” was coined in the 1980s, it has been used as a tool for identifying areas of high conservation priority.
Biodiversity hotspots are irreplaceable terrestrial habitats and their communities are at high risk of extinction. Protecting these hotspots ensures that essential ecosystems and their communities continue to contribute to the function of Earth’s ecosystem services and processes that keep us and our planet healthy.
To be classed as a “biodiversity hotspot” the site must:
- Have at least 1,500 native vascular plants
- Have lost 70% of its native vegetation
As of 2016, thirty-six hotspots have been identified. Two billion people worldwide directly rely on the goods and services these ecosystems provide. Sadly, many are located in some of the poorest regions of the world.
YOUR BIODIVERSITY ADVENTURE STARTS HERE!
- Research the locations of the world’s thirty-six biodiversity hotspots. Use the Biodiversity Hotspot Map above to help you to identify their locations.
- Select the hotspot that you want to learn about.
- Identify the problems or activities that created the biodiversity hotspot that you selected.
- Natural occurrences?
- Manmade occurrences?
- Some combination?
- What are the impacts on the plant and animal species in that region?
- What are the resulting threats to the habitat and its inhabitants?
- Select an animal species that is “at risk” and research the impact. (Hint: if you select a region in which primates live, you can do a lot of your research on this website!)
- What can be done to protect that species and its habitat? Click on the HIPPO graphic to learn what HIPPO means and what you can do to help biodiversity.
- Write a report about what you have learn or create a fact-filled poster with accompanying graphics or artwork.
- Share the report or poster with your class, friends, and/or family. Tell them how they can help too!
- To learn even more about how you can help wildlife and their habitats, click on the “What Can You Do To Help Wildlife” graphic.