Mapping and prioritizing the protection of biodiversity hotspots in the Arctic

Hans Meltofte, Dept. of Bioscience, Aarhus University

An important recommendation regarding habitat protection in the ABA reads: “To secure species representation, protection of areas with many unique species should be given high priority, so that a total Arctic network is based on the ‘complementary species richness’ method and covers as much of the entire biodiversity as possible.” This wording was chosen because the concept of biodiversity ‘hotspots’ is ambiguous. ‘Hotspots’ in the form of simple numerical species richness will often be the result of the presence of many species found commonly at more southern latitudes while extending their range into particularly ‘favorable’ sites in zones north of the ‘normal’ range.

In such cases they are anything else than hotspots of Arctic biodiversity, but on the contrary may act as ‘projecting bridgeheads’ for expansion of southern species into unique Arctic habitats. Instead, the term ‘biodiversity hotspots’ should be used exclusively for sites with particularly many unique Arctic species; i.e. endemic Arctic species with high conservation priority. We know a lot about where the most productive areas are found, the biggest concentrations of mammals and birds, polynyas and so on, but it is evident from the ABA that we suffer from lack of knowledge on the whereabouts of unique Arctic species. This means that mapping of such species followed up by conservation planning and prioritizing based on the ‘complementary species richness’ method should be given high priority in Arctic biodiversity conservation.

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