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HOTSPOTS - understanding and conserving the Earth's biodiversity hotspots -COMPLETED 2009

A multi-site Host fellowship programme for Early Stage Research Training of the European Commission to study the world's biodiversity hotspots
Flooded Amazonian rainforest. Photo: P. Gasson.

HOTSPOTS is a successful multi-site Host fellowship for Early Stage Research Training (EST) of the European Commission. However, this project is also a wider venture within Kew and sits at the interface between various scientific teams because the research focuses on various taxa and regions of the globe. Indeed, several other projects complement this EU grant under the same topic, these include for example some EU individual Marie Curie fellowships (e.g. HOTMED) and Darwin Initiative grants (e.g. Mesoamerican Orchids, DNA banking in South Africa).

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 by Conservation International (see Annex 1), 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. We work towards increasing the knowledge and understanding of biodiversity hotspots, including the Mediterranean Basin, Cameroon (Wet Tropics: Africa team), South Africa (Drylands: Africa team), some European overseas territories (e.g. French Guyana) and other countries where Kew works intensively (e.g. Madagascar). Applying field, molecular and bioinformatics approaches to flagship plants (e.g. orchids, Lamiaceae genera) and animals, we will also train a new generation of multidisciplinary biologists in state-of-the-art methods of evolution, ecology, and conservation. Nine PhD students work within the project, three of them are based in the UK, one each at the Natural History Museum, Imperial College and RBG Kew.

This project benefits from an initial grant from the European Commission (2005-2009). Kew also employs an assistant project manager funded by the Commission to help with the coordination of HOTSPOTS.

Project outputs by 2009 include the publication of 50 high-profile papers (impact factor > 2) and the production of an ‘e-atlas of speciation and biodiversity'. The e-atlas will be available online and link species biodiversity data (distribution, traits; at least 3,000 species) with DNA barcodes and phylogenetic matrices (at least 2 million DNA base pairs).

Project duration: 2005-2009

Project partners and collaborators

AustraliaRoyal Botanic Gardens Sydney
CameroonNational Herbarium Cameroon
ComorosNational Centre for Documentation and Scientific Research (CNDRS)
FinlandUniversity of Helsinki, Dept of Biological & Environment Sciences
FranceUniversity Montpellier II, IFR119 Continental, Mediterranean, and Tropical Biodiversity
University of La Réunion, Department of Chemistry
University Paul Sabatier (Toulouse III), Evolution and Biological Diversity Laboratory (UMR CNRS 5174)
French GuianaNational Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS Guyane)
GermanyUniversity of Göttingen, Department of Geobiology and Centre for Biodiversity and Ecology
South AfricaNelson Mandela Metropolitan University
South African National Biodiversity Institute, Kirstenbosch
South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria
University of Cape Town, Cape Town
University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch
SpainRoyal Botanic Garden Madrid (CSIC), Department of Biodiversity and Conservation
SwitzerlandUniversity of Lausanne, Department of Ecology and Evolution
UKBirdLife International
Imperial College, University of London, Department of Biology and NERC Centre for Population Biology
Natural History Museum London, Department of Entomology
Tropical Biology Association
USAMissouri Botanical Garden
University of Virginia

Project funders

UKDarwin Initiative

Annex material

Annex 1: Conservation International biodiversity hotspots: (Web pages)

Annex 2:Research and training parts of hotspots application (downloadable as pdf)

Project Department