How do we make “Hotspots” a little less “Hot”?

Kitty Harvill - AFC
June 30, 2011 share
Artists for Conservation

What do you think of when you hear the word "hotspot"?

Hopefully you think of a biologically diverse area of our planet that is under severe threat. The concept was first defined by British ecologist Norman Myers in 1988, and according to Conservation International, there are currently 34 such "hotspots" on our planet.

Each "hotspot" has already lost at least 70% of its original vegetation. Over 50% of the world´s plant species and 42% of all terrestrial vertebrates are endemic to these 34 "hotspots". In other words, almost half the animals on our planet live in these severely threatened regions.

So what can we do? As each of us is unique, so will our answers be.

I happen to have the good fortune to live about an hour's drive from one of the largest remnants of Brazil's Atlantic Forest. The Atlantic Forest is one of Brazil's two "hotspots", the other being the Cerrado, or savanna, in central Brazil.

The Atlantic Forest has been reduced to only seven percent of its original size! From the first European settlers more than 500 years ago, to the urban sprawl and agricultural development of today, this beautiful forest has suffered.

When you consider that 70% of Brazil's population (about 130 million people) live where this forest is, or used to be, it is clear that issues such as the availability of water could become serious if more of it disappears.

Many people are unfamiliar with this forest and only think of its neighbor, the Amazon, when considering rainforests in Brazil. In fact, it is more ancient than the Amazon, and because of its isolation and its range of climate, altitude, and latitude, has evolved unique ecosystems with a large number of species found nowhere else on earth.

Although in size, it is just a fraction of the great Amazon rainforest (20% of the Amazon has been destroyed as compared to 93% of the Atlantic Forest), it has a range of biodiversity similar to that of the Amazon, and 60% of all Brazil's endangered species live in the Atlantic Forest.

My response to this beautiful and severely threatened area has been to begin a series of paintings of its inhabitants to help raise awareness about the situation. Also, I'm currently in the final stages of the illustrations of a 48-page children's book about the endangered red-tailed parrot - a project I have also undertaken to raise awareness through art and education.

I challenge AFC members to consider devoting some of their time and talents to a "hotspot" of their choice. There are four in North and Central America, five in South America (including the two I mentioned in Brazil), four in Europe and Central Asia, eight in Africa, and 13 in Asia/ Pacific.

Perhaps if you can't visit the area to study the wildlife directly, a trip to a local zoo would be an option to start, culminating in an exhibit with a percentage of proceeds being used in efforts to help your chosen "hotspot". Ideas are as limitless as our creativity. I only know that there is a tremendous pool of talent and "heart" in this community and I believe our efforts can make a difference. So, please join me, and perhaps we can indeed, make these "hotspots" a little less..."hot".

For more information on "hotspots" visit www.biodiversityhotspots.org.

For more information about the Atlantic forest, visit:

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