Hotspot: California on the Edge
Snowfield plants in the Sierra Nevada
Biodiversity Hotspots: A Strategy for Conservation

The diversity of life is not evenly distributed across the planet. There are spectacular places with greater numbers of endemic (found in these places and nowhere else on earth), plants and animals. Many of these places also face extreme threats. With limited funding for conservation, establishing priorities for where these resources are focused is crucial.

1988: British ecologist Norman Myers identifies ten tropical forest “hotspots” characterized by high plant endemism and serious habitat loss.

1990: Meyers adds eight more hotspots, including four Mediterranean-type ecosystems for a total of eighteen. The California Floristic Province is included in this list.

1996: Conservation International adopts Myers’ hotspots concept and begins a major assessment of biodiversity hotspots.

1999: After extensive global review Conservation International establishes strict criteria to qualify as a biodiversity hotspot. A hotpsot area must:

  • Contain at least 1,500 endemic species of vascular plants
  • Have lost of at least 70% of its original habitat

The list of hotspots increased to 28 and the California Floristic Province was ranked eighth.

2005, thirty-four threatened biodiversity hotspots are now recognized. Over 50% of the world’s plant species and 42% of all terrestrial vertebrate species are endemic to these places.

In the last several decades, California has spent more money on conservation and set aside more habitats for protection than any other state. California, the wealthiest state in the U.S., serves as an important reminder that biodiversity loss and the protection of unique and threatened ecosystems is not just an issue in developing countries.

Less than 37% of the California Floristic Province is under official protection. This region has several national parks; nearly 50 wilderness areas (managed by the U.S. Forest Service); 16 national wildlife refuges (managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service); 107 state parks; six U.S. military installations; and more than 50 areas managed by NGOs. The creation of many of these protected areas was the result of dedicated efforts by conservation organizations, like the Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, and the Wilderness Society.

California has two of the oldest national parks in America: Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, both established in 1890. Other important national parks include Redwood National Park, establish in 1968 and the Channel Islands National Park, off the coast of southern California that gives protection to nesting seabirds, seals, sea lions, and the island fox.

Hotspots Science : Hotspots in Context | Hotspots Defined | Impact of Hotspots | Hotspots Revisited | Key Findings | Hotspots in Peril | Conservation Responses

Global Biodiversity Hotpsots by Region

There are 34 global biodiversity hotspots in North and Central America, South America, Europe and Central Asia, Africa, Asia-Pacific.

Investigate Biodiversity

Center for Applied Biodiversity Science

Conservation International Terrestrial Species Database


Above: Snowfield plants in the Sierra Nevada

Learn what you can do in your everyday activities to help protect the environment and lower your ecological footprint

Center for Biological Diversity

Nature Conservancy

Sierra Club

League of Conservation Voters

California League of Conservation Voters

Learn about California Congressman's attack on the Endangered Species Act

California Conservation Corps

Friends of the River - California's Statewide River Conservation Organization

Guide to California Programs for Biodiversity Conservation

The Peregrine Fund - California Condor Restoration