Hot spots of biodiversity are areas which contain the largest percentage of animal and plant species on our planet.
We live in a world of altered ecology and alarming environmental deterioration. But just when the process appeared irreversible, new winds of hope have begun to blow from every corner of the Earth.
Now, we know that the protection of our environment, of our ecology, is a global task in which all living beings and their surroundings are inter-related and inter-dependent. Every individual is important, each species is unique and unrepeatable, and each ecosystem is a complicated structure enabling life to continue.
Science is demonstrating that protecting biodiversity is an obligation in which the future of our own species is at stake. The governments of the world have at last begun to take the global environment seriously.
It’s no longer a question of simply protecting a threatened species, but rather of conserving the so-called “hot spots” of biodiversity, areas which contain the largest percentage of animal and plant species on our planet. And in order to determine these vital bastions, the scientific community, non-governmental organisations and some large financial companies are, at long last, combining forces.
Organisations like International Conservation or the Field Museum in Chicago have, since 1989, been organising the so-called RAPs, or Rapid Assessment Programmes, which sample the biological wealth of certain endangered areas in order to determine whether they are hot spots which should be protected. At the same time, large pharmaceutical companies are financing the preservation of areas of tropical forest in order to be able to investigate in them, in search of new drugs; this bio-prospecting – as it has been called – turns the conservation of the jungle into a profitable asset for the country that owns it. Initiatives are now being put into practice, but in order to be successful they must take into account the time factor.
The biodiversity hot spots are extremely fragile places, and so in many cases, such as the islands of independent evolution, the measures that must be taken in order to reverse their deterioration will not work unless they can bring results in the short term.
In Madagascar, an island which became independent of the African continent 165 million years ago, 90% of the plant species and 83% of the animal species are endemic, that is, they cannot be found in any other part of the world.
This gives them the value of uniqueness, but also makes them dependent on their exclusive surroundings in such a way that the loss of a single species can set off a chain reaction leading to the disappearance of many others.
Here, every single living being is vital and irreplaceable. And every form of life, however insignificant it may seem, is unique and unrepeatable.
These places, this marvellous variety of species, reached their present condition over the course of 165 million years of solitary evolution. But the 2,000 years that man has been on the island have been enough to cause the disappearance of many of them and today, with the massive destruction of their habitats, we could wipe out the majority of those remaining in barely a couple of decades.