A biodiversity hotspot is an area hosting an exceptional diversity of flora and fauna including many endemic species that are at threat from habitat destruction and other anthropogenic pressures. The Southeast Asia and Asia-Pacific region hosts nine biodiversity hotspots. This region mainly comprises of islands and archipelagos in the Pacific Oceans. Due to geographic isolation, the flora and fauna of most of the islands in this region have evolved independently leading to the high levels of endemism seen here. However, with the arrival of humans on these islands, the indigenous wildlife has suffered greatly. Introduced species of both plants and animals have adversely affected the survival of the endemic species on these islands. The biodiversity hotspots in this region demand high levels of protection to ensure the survival of the wildlife found here.
East Melanesian Islands
This biogeographic region is located in Oceania’s Melanesia region. The hotspot includes about 1,600 islands to the east and northeast of the island of New Guinea that encompasses an area of about 100,000 square km. Six ecoregions are part of this hotspot. Tropical rainforests cover large tracts of the area in this hotspot. About 8,000 vascular plant species are found here including 3,000 endemic species. 360 species of birds of which 40% are endemics also live here. Nearly 50% of the 85 species of mammals of the East Melanesian Islands is found nowhere else in the world. Bats exhibit the greatest diversity among the mammalians found here. The reptilian, fish, amphibian, and invertebrate diversity of the region are also noteworthy.
New Caledonia’s biodiversity is one of the richest in the world. This biodiversity hotspot features a variety of habitats including coral reefs, atolls, and islands of various sizes. High levels of endemism can be seen in the species inhabiting the islands of New Caledonia. 22 endemic species of terrestrial birds like the New Caledonian crow, laurel forest pigeon, New Caledonian parakeet, and others are found here. Six endemic species of bats are the only indigenous mammals found here. The world’s highest biodiversity of Volutomitridae is found in the offshore waters of New Caledonia. Several endemic reptilian species also occur here. Deforestation and invasive species are the biggest threats to the wildlife of New Caledonia.
New Zealand, an island country in the Pacific Ocean, hosts incredible biodiversity and a large number of endemic species by virtue of its relative isolation in the ocean. Species here have evolved on their own for millions of years to produce flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world. 80% of all vascular plants found in New Zealand are endemic to the country. All reptiles, amphibians, and bats found here are also endemic. Nearly 70% of the birds of New Zealand, 90% of freshwater fish species, and 90% of insects and mollusks are also specific to the islands of New Zealand. The Maui's dolphin and Hector's dolphin are two cetacean subspecies that are also found only in the offshore waters of New Zealand.
The sovereign nation of Philippines has about 7,641 islands and is one of the world’s top spots of biodiversity and endemism. The archipelago occupies an area of around 300,780 square km. The country hosts around 1,100 species of terrestrial vertebrates which includes 100 mammalian and 170 bird species that are found nowhere else in the world. 16 new mammalian species have been discovered here in the last decade. The rainforests here host a rich diversity of flora including the Rafflesia and rare orchids. Pythons, cobras, and massive saltwater crocodiles are found here. The Philippine tarsier, Philippine eagle, the cloud rats are some of the endemic species found here. Deforestation due to illegal logging is a major threat to the region’s wildlife. Forest cover here has declined from 70% to only about 18.3% between 1990 and 1999. According to the scientists, the species here are subjected to a catastrophic extinction rate of 20% by the end of the present century.
This biodiversity hotspot includes all islands of Polynesia and Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean as well as the islands of Fiji. This hotspot thus spreads across a massive including 11 nations, 8 territories, and even Hawaii. However, the total land area included in this hotspot is only about the size of Switzerland. A wide variety of ecosystems are found here such as wetlands, rainforests, grasslands, etc. The indigenous flora and fauna of these islands are greatly threatened by habitat loss and invasive species.
Eastern Australian temperate forests
This biodiversity hotspot stretches along the coast of the Pacific Ocean from just south of Sydney to the northern parts of the city of Cairns. Like other hotspots, the coastal forests in this region is home to a great diversity of flora and fauna including many that are not found elsewhere. In many areas in this hotspot, native vegetation has been cleared out to make space for human settlements and economic activities. Thus, protecting the forests here is the need of the day.
This biodiversity hotspot occupies an area of around 356,700 square km in Australia’s southwestern tip. The region has different types of habitats including forest, shrublands, woodlands, and heath vegetation. Some of the endemic species found here include the red-capped parrot, endangered numbat, honey possum, western swamp turtle, and others.
Sundaland and Nicobar islands of India
This biodiversity hotspot includes Sundaland, a Southeast Asian biogeographical region, and the Nicobar Islands archipelago of India in the Indian Ocean. The region hosts an impressive number of endemic flora and fauna. There are varied ecosystems in the region like montane and lowland rainforests, swamp forests, grasslands and shrublands, meadows, and even mangroves. Near 60% of the thousands of vascular plant species found here is endemic to the region. Komodo dragons, proboscis monkeys, Sumatran tigers, orangutans, pig-tailed langurs, etc, are some of the fauna found here.
This biodiversity hotspot includes a group of Indonesian islands between the Australian and Asian continental shelves. Some of the major islands found here include Sulawesi, Lombok, Flores, Timor, etc. The flora and fauna of the Wallacea exhibit high levels of island endemism. Since the islands in the region are separated from each other by deep water, the specific diversity between these islands is also highly significant. Some of the endemic species include the anoa or dwarf buffalo and babirusa or deer pig. The island of Seram is famous for its birdlife including the noted Amboina king parrot. Wallacea also hosts a great diversity of habitats like mangroves, montane forests, tropical moist broadleaf forests, etc.
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