Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 14, pp 3597–3611 | Cite as

The rarest and least protected forests in biodiversity hotspots

  • Thomas W. Gillespie
  • Boris Lipkin
  • Lauren Sullivan
  • David R. Benowitz
  • Stephanie Pau
  • Gunnar Keppel
Original Paper


The goal of biodiversity hotspots is to identify regions around the world where conservation priorities should be focused. We undertake a geographic information system and remote sensing analysis to identify the rarest and least protected forests in biodiversity hotspots. World Wildlife Fund ecoregions with terrestrial forest were subset from 34 biodiversity hotspots and forest cover calculated from GlobCover data at a 300 m pixel resolution. There were 276 ecoregions in 32 biodiversity hotspots classified as containing terrestrial forests. When the first quartile of forest ecoregions was subset based on smallest extent of forest cover in protected areas, there were 69 rare forests identified within 20 biodiversity hotspots. Most rare forest ecoregions (45) occurred on islands or island archipelagos and 47 rare forest ecoregions contained less than 10 % forest cover in protected areas. San Félix-San Ambrosio Islands Temperate Forests, Tubuai Tropical Moist Forests, Maldives-Lakshadweep-Chagos Archipelago Tropical Moist Forests, and Yap Tropical Dry Forests were identified as the least protected and possibly most vulnerable forests within biodiversity hotspots. These ecoregions cover less than 500 km2, forest cover is less than 50 km2, and there are no protected areas. There is a need to update classifications and boundaries of protected areas, insure that islands are included in global land cover datasets, and identify levels of endemism and endangerment within forest ecoregions. This should improve our ability to compare, prioritize, and monitor forests in biodiversity hotspots.


Biodiversity hotspots Forest conservation Geographic information systems ESA Globcover Protected areas 



We thank Kelly Easterday, Greg Okin, Diane Rachels, Angela Forero, Amy Dhaliwal, Astuhito Nekoshima, Katie Gatlin, Naomi Chung, and Muntasir Khan for research assistance. We thank Jean-Yves Meyer, Kirstin O’Neill, Ana Paula Giorgi, and C. B. Schmitt for helpful comments on this manuscript. An anonymous reviewer provided excellent comments and suggestions that greatly improved the manuscript. The National Geographic Society, National Science Foundation BCS0455052, Department of Geography UCLA, and the California Center for Population Research UCLA funded this research.

Supplementary material

10531_2012_384_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (63 kb)
Appendix 1 Forest ecoregions, terrestrial forest landcover types, forest cover, and forest cover in protected areas in biodiversity hotspots (XLSX 62 kb)
10531_2012_384_MOESM2_ESM.docx (66 kb)
Appendix 2 (DOCX 66 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas W. Gillespie
    • 1
  • Boris Lipkin
    • 1
  • Lauren Sullivan
    • 1
  • David R. Benowitz
    • 1
  • Stephanie Pau
    • 2
  • Gunnar Keppel
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of California Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.National Center for Ecological Analysis and SynthesisSanta BarbaraUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Biodiversity and ClimateSchool of Science, Curtin UniversityPerthAustralia

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