International biodiversity hotspots

What is an international biodiversity hotspot and how were they identified?

Conservation International, a nonprofit environmental organisation based in Washington DC, has identified 25 international biodiversity hotspots, including the southwest of Australia.

These international hotspot areas were assessed according to their plant diversity, and had to contain at least 1500 endemic plant species to qualify. All of the regions identified had lost more than 70% of their original habitat.

Where are the international biodiversity hotspots?

25 international biodiversity hotspots have been identified. Hotspots have been identified in:

  • North and Central America (3 hotspots)
  • South America (5 hotspots)
  • Europe and Central Asia (2 hotspots)
  • Africa (5 hotspots)
  • Mainland Asia (3 hotspots)
  • Asia-Pacific (7 hotspots - including Southwest Australia)
  • More information about the international hotspots is on the Hotspots by Region  page of the Conservation International web site

Southwest Australia

The unique biogeographic region of Southwest Australia, stretching from Shark Bay in the north to Israelite Bay in the south, covers over 300 000 square kilometers and is recognised as an international biodiversity hotspot.

Separated from the rest of the continent by desert, the plants and animals in the hotspot have evolved in isolation for millions of years.

As a result, the area is teeming with life - it is home to over 1500 plant species, most of which are endemic. These include the majestic marri and karri eucalypt trees that can grow to over 30 and 70 metres respectively.

The hotspot is home to the endangered western swamp turtle - possibly the most threatened fresh water turtle species in the world.

There are also several endemic mammals in the hotspot, including the numbat, which is a rabbit-sized marsupial anteater now endemic to the hotspot having disappeared from the rest of its range in Australia, and the Dibbler which had been thought extinct for 83 years.

Land clearing, salinity, feral animals, weeds and the root-rot fungus Phytopthora cinnamomi threaten the biodiversity values of the hotspot.

To find out more about Western Australia's biodiversity, visit:

Regional Natural Heritage Programme

The Australian Government provided $10 million over three years through the Regional Natural Heritage Programme to fund non-government organisations and other agencies to protect outstanding biodiversity in hotspot areas of South-East Asia and the Pacific.