Biodiversity Hotspots

Conservation International’s biodiversity hotspots—defined regions around the world where biodiversity conservation is most urgent because of high levels of endemism and human threat

  • Source: CI/CEPF


Biodiversity hotspots, a classification system created by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), include some of our planet’s most biologically diverse yet threatened terrestrial areas. An area is qualified as a hotspot if it contains at least 1,500 species of vascular plants found nowhere else on Earth (known as “endemic” species) and it has lost at least 70 percent of its primary native vegetation. Between 1988 and 2016, 36 biodiversity hotspots have been identified globally.


Hotspots were defined by Norman Myers in 1988 when he published a seminal paper identifying 10 tropical forest “hotspots.” These regions were characterized both by exceptional levels of plant endemism, meaning plants found nowhere else on Earth, and serious levels of habitat loss. Conservation International (CI) adopted Myers’s hotspots as its institutional blueprint in 1989. In 1999, CI undertook a global review, which introduced quantitative thresholds for the designation of biodiversity hotspots and resulted in the identification of 25.

In 2005, an additional analysis brought the total number of biodiversity hotspots to 34, based on the work of nearly 400 specialists. In 2011, the Forests of East Australia were identified as the 35th hotspot by a team of researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization working with CI. In February 2016, the North American Coastal Plain was recognized as meeting the criteria and became the world’s 36th hotspot. For the full documentation, please click on the “Learn more” button.

Data shown on Resource Watch Map

  • 2016 Biodiversity Hotspots: Location and extent of 36 biodiversity hotspots on land. Hotspots are defined as areas that contain at least 1,500 species of vascular plants found nowhere else on Earth (known as “endemic” species) and that have lost at least 70 percent of their primary native vegetation.

Additional data on the offshore extents of biodiversity hotspots is available from the data provider. Please click on the “Download from Source” button to find this data on the source website.


Excerpts of this description page were taken from the source metadata. Resource Watch shows only a subset of the dataset. For access to the full dataset and additional information, click on the “Learn more” button.

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Biodiversity Hotspots Version 2016.1


This layer only displays the land-based portion of biodiversity hotspots, although some hotspots extend offshore.

Suggested citation

Conservation International and Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. 2016. "Biodiversity Hotspots." Accessed through Resource Watch, (date).


Conservation International Foundation (CI)
Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF)

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