Open Spaces: We Heart Hotspots

We Heart Hotspots

By Rachel Penrod, USFWS

What’s a biodiversity hotspot? It’s an area of the earth that is literally ‘teeming with life,’ where a huge diversity of species can be found. 

Why’s a hotspot important? Because so many species depend on them for survival. Plus they have amazing resources and they can help us find the best areas to protect for wildlife.

woodpeckerThe Puerto Rican Woodpecker is just one of the myriad of species that thrives in hotspots. (@Alfredo Colon)

So how do you protect hotspots? Now that’s a good question. Turns out, one great way is to gather together the largest alliance of conservation organizations in the world and set the best scientists to monitor and conserve a hotspot network, a group of interconnected hotspot sites.

Who would have thought of that? Well it would have to be one of the intrepid grantees of the Service’s Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, a law the U.S. Congress put in place to help save the birds we love at home when they fly out of our backyards and visit hotspots and other habitats in the Neotropics--Southern North America, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

The organization in question is called BirdLife International and it brings together 117 conservation groups in as many countries. BirdLife’s Important Bird Area program has recorded a whopping 2,345 hotpots for birds in Central and South America. This data is helping countries in Latin America design networks of habitat to protect the world’s most diverse birdlife.

The internationally renowned Important Bird Area program just won a BBVA Foundation Award for Biodiversity Conservation, putting an additional 250,000 Euros toward their work, and further leveraging the Service’s grant funds. The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act has funded BirdLife for the last nine years, putting a total of $2,057,140 toward the organization’s work and leveraging an additional $6,571,834 for bird conservation, a three-to-one match.

Hotspots are still in trouble, as are many wild areas, but with continued support from our partners and the public, we can keep working to protect them.

Rachel Penrod is an Outreach and Education Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Last updated: June 21, 2012