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Biodiversity Hot Spot: N America Coastal Plain


Sometimes something precious is right under your nose, but goes unnoticed. Such it is that a region long explored by botanists and zoologists – the North American Coastal Plain (NACP) – was recognized only recently as meeting the criteria for a global biodiversity hotspot: more than 1,500 endemic vascular plants and greater than 70 percent habitat loss. The NACP has been defined in two ways: as the Geological Coastal Plain and as the Coastal Plain Floristic Province.

LANDFIRE played a key part in the analysis

At 1.13 million ​km2, the NACP is larger than most previously identified hotspots, the same size as Mesoamerica but smaller than the Mediterranean Basin or Horn of Africa hotspots.

By definition, a global biodiversity hotspot is a place that meets two criteria: (1) it contains over 1500 endemic vascular plants, and (2) it has lost over 70% of its historic vegetation. They used plant species records to determine that the NACP meets the first criterion because it has 1816 endemic vascular plants. For the second criterion, they used a combination of LANDFIRE data and records of recent fires from the region to show that 85.5% of the NACP has been lost.

LANDFIRE was the only available data set  that allowed a consistent assessment of historic vegetation loss across the NACP region. Further, only LANDFIRE data products include estimates of the historic fire regime across the region; thus, the measure of vegetation loss included vegetation conversion as well as alteration of the fire regime.

Read the "Thumbnail Sketch" on Conservation Gateway.

Read the announcement by lead researcher Reed Noss, Provost's Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Biology, University of Central Florida.

Read the report for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund

Read the article in Diversity and Distributions