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Video transcript
what we're going to talk about right now is something called a biodiversity hotspot how do you figure out what the places are on earth that deserve our special focus that deserve attention that they need to protect them for future generations it's obvious that the earth is in trouble and we can't save the entire planet all at once we need to have a focus we can't do triage on an entire planet we've limited resources we have limited time we're running out of time to protect many of these places so what are the criteria that we use to try and figure out what those hotspots really are that need that special attention for protection back in 1988 ancient history to some of us and in fact might be prehistory to others there was a scientist by the name of Norman Meyers who wrote a really important paper that analyzed different types of geological climatological and uniqueness criteria to come up with the concept of a hotspot scientists who looked this problem decided eventually that there really were two main criteria that we're going to lead to a conservation international now recognizes as a biodiversity hotspot one criterion was that there had to be at least 1,500 endemic species of plants we'll get back to the idea of endemism in a moment there also had to be an additional factor that made the area unique and deserving of our focus there had to be more than 70% of the original habitats already lost which highlighted the need to designate this place as a hotspot why plants plants particularly in terrestrial environments are crucial animals go where the plants are plants are the primary producers there at the base of food webs life attracts other life and it depends on other life now let's get back to that idea of endemism an endemic species is a species that's found in a certain area and nowhere else on earth in other words endemism is a measure of how unique and irreplaceable something is an example of an endemic organism that resonates with people people love tortoises if you think about the Galapagos Islands for example most islands have their own special type odorous it lives there and nowhere else so if something happens to wipe out the tortoises on that island those tortoises are gone forever they're not found anyplace else they were irreplaceable at the moment Conservation International formally recognizes 34 biodiversity hotspot areas on earth the interesting thing about this is that less than 3% of the Earth's land surface area is represented by these hotspots so we're talking about some very very special places indeed there are other ways to think about these special places on earth besides hotspots some of these concepts are used to help recognize larger geographical units of land and water that have unique assemblages of species or distinct environmental conditions that make them worthy of our special attention I think it's really important that we recognize that the hotspot idea is much more than a conservation tool it's actually become a powerful scientific tool because hotspots are a blood pressure cuff for planet Earth you can go back and keep measuring the effects on these different places due to human activity or environmental change of various kinds and go through the science of measuring the pressure on biodiversity in a sense hotspots are almost like avatars they're like representatives for other endangered areas on the planet that might not necessarily meet the special criteria of 1,500 endemic species of plants and more than 70% of the original habitat loss and yet they are still obviously critical and important places for lots of organisms to you need to think about hotspots as a network of places on earth that are interconnected not just single units that protect small pieces of biodiversity but that help preserve biodiversity in a great many other habitats and other hotspots as well and lots of conservation organizations government agencies and even concerned people like all of us can use these hotspots to better help direct the resources to the places that require our greatest attention above all we need to remember one overriding principle that we focus on protecting the highest number of species that we can especially the ones that are most threatened that's what this hotspot concept is trying to get to we want to enhance our ability to protect species richness that way we can boost the stability and resilience of ecosystems so I think that for me these hotspots really do carry that special signal and are really worthy of the special effort that's being developed over the last few decades to monitor to them to provide the good solid science that helps us not just to define them but to monitor and promote their health down the road and to employ those concepts to draw people in to develop that people power that's really necessary to move forward with the protection of life on Earth