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The rarest and least protected forests in biodiversity hotspots

Gillespie, Thomas W., Lipkin, Boris, Sullivan, Lauren, Benowitz, David R., Pau, Stephanie, Keppel, Gunnar
Biodiversity and conservation 2012 v.21 no.14 pp. 3597-3611
biodiversity, ecoregions, geographic information systems, islands, land cover, remote sensing, temperate forests, tropical forests, wildlife
The goal of biodiversity hotspots is to identify regions around the world where conservation priorities should be focused. We undertake a geographic information system and remote sensing analysis to identify the rarest and least protected forests in biodiversity hotspots. World Wildlife Fund ecoregions with terrestrial forest were subset from 34 biodiversity hotspots and forest cover calculated from GlobCover data at a 300 m pixel resolution. There were 276 ecoregions in 32 biodiversity hotspots classified as containing terrestrial forests. When the first quartile of forest ecoregions was subset based on smallest extent of forest cover in protected areas, there were 69 rare forests identified within 20 biodiversity hotspots. Most rare forest ecoregions (45) occurred on islands or island archipelagos and 47 rare forest ecoregions contained less than 10 % forest cover in protected areas. San Félix-San Ambrosio Islands Temperate Forests, Tubuai Tropical Moist Forests, Maldives-Lakshadweep-Chagos Archipelago Tropical Moist Forests, and Yap Tropical Dry Forests were identified as the least protected and possibly most vulnerable forests within biodiversity hotspots. These ecoregions cover less than 500 km², forest cover is less than 50 km², and there are no protected areas. There is a need to update classifications and boundaries of protected areas, insure that islands are included in global land cover datasets, and identify levels of endemism and endangerment within forest ecoregions. This should improve our ability to compare, prioritize, and monitor forests in biodiversity hotspots.