Biodiversity Hotspots in India – Hotspots of Biodiversity

By Balaji

Updated on: March 9th, 2023

Biodiversity Hotspots in India are home to numerous rare and vulnerable plant and animal species that can be found in abundance. According to official statistics, India is home to the Himalayas, the Indo-Burma region, the Western Ghats, and Sundaland, four of the world’s 36 Biodiversity Hotspots. These Biodiversity hotspots in India could also include the Sundarbans and the Terrai-Duar Savannah grasslands because of their distinctive flora and fauna.

Biodiversity is essential in maintaining the balance between different species and provides ecological, economic, and social services. Biodiversity and ecological hotspots or Biodiversity hotspots are the prime topics for the upcoming UPSC Exam.

Table of content

  • 1. What are Biodiversity Hotspots? (more)
  • 2. Biodiversity Hotspots in India (more)
  • 3. How many Biodiversity Hotspots in India? (more)
  • 4. Criteria for Biodiversity Hotspots (more)
  • 5. Biodiversity Hotspots of the World (more)
  • 6. 8 Hottest Hotspots of Biodiversity (more)
  • 7. Importance of Biodiversity Hotspots (more)
  • 8. What is Biodiversity? (more)
  • 9. Loss of Hotspots of Biodiversity (more)
  • 10. Conservation of Ecological Hotspots (more)
  • 11. Biodiversity Hotspots in India UPSC (more)

What are Biodiversity Hotspots?

A Biodiversity Hotspot is any biogeographical area with many species, but a significant amount of biodiversity is threatened by destruction. These ecological hotspots are essential for maintaining ecosystem balance. The term hotspot was introduced by N. Myers in 1988 for those geographical regions particularly rich in endemic, rare, and threatened species found in relatively small areas but facing significant threats to habitat loss.

Presently, 36 areas across the globe qualify as Biodiversity Hotspots. They represent 2.4% of the Earth’s land surface but support more than half of the world’s plant species as endemics and nearly 43% of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians as endemic species.

Biodiversity Hotspots in India

India has a rich biodiversity with six major biodiversity hotspots with much-endangered fauna and flora. The Hotspots of Biodiversity In India are the Himalayas, Indo-Burma region, Terrai-duar SavannahWestern Ghats, Sundaland, and Sunderbans. Sunderbans is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site in India.

A detailed description of the 6 Biodiversity Hotspots in India is as under:


  • The Eastern Himalayas is one of the major Biodiversity Hotspots in India.
  • It includes the area of Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Burma.
  • It has an evergreen forest that includes trees like oak and alpine.
  • The fauna consists of charismatic western tragopan, heron, tiger, white-winged wood duck, clouded leopard, slow loris, golden langur, golden cat, snow cock, and Indian civet.

Terrai-duar Savannah:

  • The Terrai-duar Savannah forms a narrow stretch at the base of the Himalayas and then continues to the Indo-Gangetic plain of Bhutan, Nepal, and India.
  • Terrai-duar Savannah is the land of the world’s rarest and tallest grasslands with rich slits.
  • Every year, these slits are deposited by a heavy monsoon that causes floods.
  • The prominent fauna of the Terrai-duar Savannah is the one-horned rhinoceros, Asian elephants, sloth bears, and much more.

Indo-Burma Region:

  • The Indo-Burma region is one of the largest Biodiversity Hotspots in India.
  • It spreads to a large area, including Cambodia, Laos PDR, Thailand, Myanmar, the plains of Ganga, parts of Andaman and Nicobar island, and regions around the Brahmaputra river.
  • It is one of the most threatened sites with many flora and fauna species, including the grey-crowned crocias and Annamite muntjac.
  • But, because of increasing human threats, this Biodiversity Hotspot requires legal protection.


  • Sunderbans combines 104 islands in the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta.
  • Sunderbans is one of India’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, with the world’s largest mangrove forest.
  • It is the home to the Royal Bengal tigers. Along with the Royal Bengal tigers, its fauna also includes the estuarine crocodile and Gangetic dolphins and a lot of other species of fish, mammals, and birds.
  • But nowadays, the increase in the sea level because of global warming is causing considerable danger to the species living at this Biodiversity Hotspot.


  • Sundaland Biodiversity Hotspot of India lies in the Nicobar Islands and extends to the tectonic plates under the Indian Ocean.
  • It is the land for the species like probosci’s monkeys, pig-tailed langurs, Javan and Sumatran rhinos, and orangutans.
  • Of these, the probosci’s monkeys are only found in the Borneo region.
  • Not only this but the world’s largest flower, the rafflesia (one meter long), is also found at this Biodiversity Hotspot.

Western Ghats:

  • The Western Ghats runs from the north to the south beyond the west coast of India.
  • It is also one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites with many montane tropical rainforests.
  • These forests are home to a variety of fauna and flora. It includes leopards, black panthers, and tigers.
  • The southern part of the Western Ghats fauna includes the endangered lion-tailed macaques.
  • The Western Ghats observe the presence of the weird pig-nosed purple frog during monsoon.
  • New species are still being discovered in this dense Biodiversity Hotspot in India.

How many Biodiversity Hotspots in India?

The Himalayas, the Indo-Burma area, Sundaland (which includes the Nicobar group of Islands), and the Western Ghats are four of India’s biodiversity hotspots. The Sundarbans and the Terrai-Duar Savannah grasslands can also be added to this list because of their distinctive animal and plant life.

There are lots of endemic species in these ecological hotspots. All life on Earth depends on biodiversity, which is why these biodiversity hotspots are of enormous global relevance. They are home to rare species and ecosystems. The preservation of natural resources like clean water and soil, maintenance of the ecosystem, control of pollutants, and recycling of ecosystem nutrients are just a few of the ways these biodiversity hotspots in India are advantageous.

Criteria for Biodiversity Hotspots

Ecological Hotspots or Biodiversity Hotspots are the same terms. For any area to qualify as a Biodiversity Hotspot, the following criteria must be met:

  • The area must contain at least 1,500 species of endemic vascular plants.
  • The area must have lost at least 70 per cent of its primary native vegetation.

The most diversified Biodiversity Hotspot on earth is the Andes Mountains Tropical Hotspot.

Biodiversity Hotspots of the World

Just 2.5% of the land surface of the planet is made up of forests and other remaining habitats found in hotspots. Biodiversity Hotspots are some of the world’s richest and most significant ecosystems, and many of their fragile residents are reliant on nature to survive.

There are 36 major Biodiversity Hotspots in the world, namely:

  • Mountains of Central Asia
  • The Mediterranean basin and its Eastern Coastal region
  • Iran-Anatolia region
  • Caucasus region
  • Atlantic forest
  • Tropical Andes
  • Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena
  • Chilean winter rainfall (Valdivian) Forests
  • Brazil’s Cerrado
  • The Mesoamerican forests
  • Modrean pine-oak woodlands of the USA and Mexico border
  • Caribbean islands hotspot
  • California Floristic Province
  • South-Western Australia
  • Polynesia and Micronesian Islands Complex, including Hawaii
  • The Western Ghats
  • Wallace
  • Western Sunda
  • Philippine biodiversity hotspot
  • New Zealand biodiversity hotspot
  • New Caledonia
  • Mountains of South-West China
  • Japan biodiversity hotspot
  • The Eastern Himalayas
  • Himalayan hotspot
  • Coastal forests of Eastern Africa
  • South Africa’s Cape floristic hotspot
  • East Melanesian islands
  • Succulent Karou
  • Maputoland, Podoland, Albany hotspot
  • Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands
  • Horn of Africa
  • The Guinean forests of Western Africa
  • Eastern Afro-Montane
  • Sunderbans
  • Sundaland

8 Hottest Hotspots of Biodiversity

The majority of the world’s biodiversity hotspots are located in tropical areas and do not take into account shifting patterns of land use. Hotspots are areas that have lost a lot of habitats. However, this does not necessarily mean that this is still happening.

The global 8 hottest Hotspots of Biodiversity are:

  • The Philippines
  • Madagascar
  • Wallacea (eastern Indonesia)
  • South Africa’s Cape floristic region
  • Brazil’s Atlantic Forest Region
  • Western Sunda (in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei)
  • The Tropical Andes (Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia)
  • Meso-American forests

Importance of Biodiversity Hotspots

Biodiversity Hotspots have a significant role in maintaining the ecological balance within the ecosystem. They have important economic, ecological, and scientific functions. The importance of Biodiversity hotspots can be summarized as:

  • If the ecosystem is diverse, species’ survival will be better chances from attacks and adversities. Thus, it contributes to preserving species and maintaining the ecological balance.
  • It serves an essential role in human survival by capturing and storing energy, producing and decomposing organic material, contributing to the water cycle, and regulating the climate.
  • Biodiversity, especially agrobiodiversity, is an essential day-to-day life resource. It is significant in producing medicinal resources, food crops, livestock, fish, and other introductory material for pharmaceuticals, food manufacturing, and cosmetics.
  • The species (extinct or alive) contributes to understanding the evolutionary concept. It helps understand the role and function a species performs in a particular environment and indicates their different relationships.
  • Along with these roles, it is also essential to maintain the food web, pollination, nutrient cycling, greenhouse reduction, soil formation, etc.

What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the total number and variety of species in a particular area or regionIt includes diversity within species, between the species, and the ecosystem. Whittaker did the measurement of biodiversity.

Biodiversity hotspots majorly have two components,

  • Species Richness: Species richness is species diversity within a community. It has three types, Alpha, beta, and gamma diversity.
  • Species Evenness: Species evenness is the measure of species proportion in a given site.

Types of Biodiversity

Based on the diversity within species, between species, and between the ecosystem, biodiversity can be differentiated into the following types:

  • Genetic Diversity: Individuals of a specific species are different in terms of genetic makeup, and there is variability of the genes within the members of the same species of plants and animals.
  • Species Diversity: Different species live in a specific area, habitat, or region. Species diversity in biodiversity hotspots can occur in agricultural as well as natural ecosystems.
  • Ecosystem Diversity: Diversity among different ecosystems with different species is termed ecosystem diversity. It includes mountains, deserts, grasslands, and forests. It can be observed within a country, state, or a specific geographical region.

Loss of Hotspots of Biodiversity

The primary causes responsible for the loss of Biodiversity Hotspots are:

  • Habitat loss and fragmentation is the primary cause that drives animals and plants to extinction. Habitat loss and fragmentation have been through changes in land use.
  • Unsustainable use of ecosystems and over-exploitation of biodiversity are major reasons behind biodiversity hotspot loss. Over-hunting or poaching of species, overfishing, and over-harvesting of plant products can quickly decline biodiversity.
  • Changing consumption patterns of humans are often cited as the key reason for this unsustainable exploitation of natural resources. Many species which got extinct in the past five centuries, like Steller’s sea cow and the passenger pigeon, were subject to over-exploitation by humans.
  • Plants, animals, and microorganisms transported deliberately or unintentionally from an outside geographical region can cause great damage to native species by competing with them for food and shelter, spreading diseases unknown to them, causing genetic changes through the process of interbreeding with native species, and disrupting various aspects of their food chains and the physical environment.
  • Climate change is projected to become a progressively more significant threat to biodiversity and ecological hotspots in the coming decades. These changes have altered food chains and created mismatches within ecosystems where species have evolved synchronized inter-dependence.
  • Floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters also cause biodiversity hotspot loss.

Conservation of Ecological Hotspots

Seeing the threats to Biodiversity, there is a need to conserve Biodiversity Hotspots. The conservation of Biodiversity means preserving, protecting, and managing the ecosystem and natural habitats.

There are two types of conservation for biodiversity hotspots, namely:

In-situ Conservation of Biodiversity Hotspots

The conservation of Biodiversity in the natural environment is called in-situ conservation. E.g., Sanctuaries, National parks, Reserved forests, Biosphere Reserves, etc.

The principal aims of in-situ conservation include the following:

  • Promotion of protection, restoration, and sustainable management of the protected area.
  • Development of strategies for the conservation of biodiversity hotspots within the area.
  • Creation of natural corridors linking areas of biological interest to prevent further habitat fragmentation.
  • Introduction of legislation to protect the species.
  • Information dissemination, education, and awareness generation.
  • Promoting sustainable tourism in sensitive areas.

Ex-situ Conservation of Hotspot of Biodiversity

Conservation of the Biodiversity outside the naturally occurring area is known as ex-situ conservation: E.g., DNA banks, cryopreservation, zoological parks, wildlife safari parks, botanical gardens, seed banks, sperm banks, and collection of living organisms for research and development purposes.

Biodiversity Hotspots in India UPSC

Hotspots of Biodiversity are one of the important topics for the UPSC Exam. Many questions about the topic have been asked in the Prelims and UPSC Mains exams. So it is critically important to understand the topic completely. You can go through the NCERT Books and solve the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers to complete the topic exhaustively.

Below are some important pointers one needs to keep in mind regarding the biodiversity hotspots in India.

  • Any biogeographical region with numerous species that also happens to be under serious threat of extinction is known as a biodiversity hotspot.
  • Numerous endangered species consider these hotspots home, including one-horned rhinoceroses, shy lion-tailed macaques, Royal Bengal tigers, and many others.
  • India is considered a mega diversity Biodiversity hotspot centre due to the enormous quantity and diversity of creatures found there.
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