Understanding and Conserving the Earth’s Biodiversity Hotspots

The Earth’s biodiversity is threatened by human activities yet the sustainable use of biodiversity is fundamental to the future development of humanity. Because financial and human resources for nature conservation are limited, it is appropriate to focus efforts on the richest and most threatened reservoirs of biodiversity. About 34 such biodiversity hotspots have been recently proposed, based on available data on plant and vertebrate species richness, endemism and threat status. While there is a wide consensus on the choice and geographical delimitation of hotspots, the dynamics of biodiversity in these hotspots and the ecological impacts of predicted biodiversity loss are still only poorly understood. In collaboration with partners in FP6-third countries, the European HOTSPOTS consortium will work towards increasing the knowledge and understanding of biodiversity hotspots, including the Mediterranean Basin and some European overseas territories. Applying field, molecular and bioinformatics approaches to flagship plants and animals, HOTSPOTS will train a new generation of multidisciplinary biologists in state-of-the-art methods of evolution, ecology, and conservation.

HOTSPOTS is a successful multi-site Host fellowship for Early Stage Research Training (EST) of the European Commission. The project extends from 2005 onwards for an initial 4-year funding period; the coordinating host is the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the United Kingdom. HOTSPOTS funds nine early-stage researchers, each based in one of the partner institutions of the HOTSPOTS consortium. The researchers will be enrolled in our EuroPhD programme, comprising PhD research, summer schools (UK and Africa), university training modules (France, Germany, Finland) and training in complementary skills.

The nine research projects funded by HOTSPOTS will explore aspects of species richness, endemism and threat status in biodiversity hotspots, focussing on different taxa, ecosystems and study sites. Syntheses of the results will enable comparative meta-analyses to be performed to assess the evolutionary and ecological causes of hotspot diversity.

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