Determining conservation hotspots across biogeographic regions using rainfall belts: Israel as a case study

Noam Levin*, Avi Shmida

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


With the current loss of biodiversity, efforts are being amassed to prioritize biodiversity hotspots that should receive high conservation priority. These studies often compare different biogeogrpahical regions using absolute estimates of species richness or rarity. Consequently, arid, semiarid, and other areas (e.g., boreal) are often ignored or are undervalued. Here, using a regional case study, we propose and demonstrate an approach that enables us to determine plant-based hotspots over landscape units across biogeographical regions using normalized, and comparing with absolute, measures. Three botanical variables were calculaled for 521 predetermined landscape units in Israel. These included plant species richness, the sum of scores of red (endangered) species, and a spatial exclusiveness score, all calculated from the Israel Plant Information Center (Rotem) database. We classified the landscape units into six rainfall belts (from extreme-arid to mesic-Mediterranean), as a normalization method to enable comparison and ranking across different environments. Residuals from the species-area curves were calculated within each belt for each of the variables, as a means to normalize for sampling effects. The 25 highest-ranking landscape units were identified as botanic hotspots, both before and after normalization. Prior to normalization, most of the hotspots were located in the Mediterranean region. Following normalization, hotspots were identified across the entire climatic gradient and corresponded with threatened habitats where many threatened plant species exist, such as wetlands, sandy loamy soil, and heavy clayey soil areas. The use of rainfall belts enabled us to identify additional important conservation hotspots that are located in relatively poor species environments, such as deserts. This method should be further applied on a global basis to identify hotspots within additional biomes that have been mostly excluded from existing global hotspot maps, such as the Taiga, Boreal forests, Tundra, and the arid and semiarid desert and Xeric shrublands.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)33-58
Number of pages26
JournalIsrael Journal of Ecology and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank B. Levinson of Rotem ( for her assistance in handling the Rotem database, and A. Ben-Nun of the GIS Center of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Y. Ginot of the GIS unit of the Israeli Ministry of Environment, and A. Heller of the GIS unit of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) for making available the various GIS layers used in this study. We thank S. Kark and I. Noy-Meir of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, M. Werger of the University of Utrecht, S.B. Ler-man of the University of Massachusetts, and K. Duhl of the University of Queensland for their helpful remarks on earlier versions of this manuscript. We thank the referees for their very helpful and insightful comments that greatly improved this manuscript. This research was supported by the Israeli Ministry of Environment (as part of a study titled “Mapping and analyzing the botanic layer of Israel’s flora to determine “red regions” of botanic biodiversity and the “red” number of Israel’s plants”), research grant no. 1401-2.


  • Biodiversity
  • Hotspots
  • Plants, rainfall, species-area relationship, species richness, rarity


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