Population growth threatening the world’s ‘biodiversity hotspots’

Research shows that conservationists seeking to protect the world's 25 'biodiversity hotspots' and three 'major tropical wilderness areas' are facing the challenge of above-average population growth rates in these regions.

The research, conducted by Population Action International, is published in the 27 April edition of Nature magazine.

The concept of biodiversity hotspots was introduced by ecologist Norman Myers in the late 1980s to describe areas, which are especially rich in endemic species and particularly threatened by human activity. Myers argued that conservation efforts targeted in these hotspots would help to minimise species extinctions.

Myers also identified three areas he termed major tropical wilderness areas, which he said should be subject to conservation plans in order to operate as a back-up to the hotspot conservation strategy. Together, the wilderness areas cover 6.3% of the earth’s surface and include major cities within their boundaries.

Population Action International’s research shows that population increases are occurring in all but one of the hotspots – the Caucasus – and that the increases, which average 1.8%, are greater than the global average, of 1.6%. The hotspots’ population growth average is even higher than the growth rate for the developing world, which is 1.6%.

Also worrying are the figures showing that the population growth rates for the three major tropical wilderness areas are, on average, almost double the global rate.

Based on current population densities, the research identifies the following three hotspots as having the highest risk:

  • Western Ghats & Sri Lanka
  • Philippines
  • Caribbean

Assessing risk based on expected rapid population growth alone, the following record the highest risk:

  • Choco-Darien-Western Ecuador
  • Tropical Andes
  • Madagascar

Considering endemism and packing of species into reduced areas of original vegetation, the following three hotspots are given highest priority:

  • Philippines
  • Caribbean
  • Madagascar

Population Control International is urging conservationists to consider population density and population growth when making decisions on conservation strategy.

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