The term 'hotspot' refers to areas where high levels of species richness, endemism as well as threat coincide. To qualify as an international hotspot, an area must have at least 1500 endemic vascular plant species — that is trees, flowers, grasses and vines — and it must have 30 per cent or less of its original natural vegetation. In other words, it must be threatened.
International hotspots represent just 2.3 per cent of Earth's land surface but contain about half the world’s endemic plant species, which are found nowhere else, and nearly 43 per cent of the world’s endemic bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian species. Hotspots are irreplaceable.
The Caribbean, the Philippines and Madagascar rank the highest priority of hotspots, based on total plant and vertebrate diversity and endemism. Regions with high levels of endangered species, include Brazil's Cerrado, Central Chile, the Mountains of South-Central China, western Ecuador and the Caucasus. The 'hot spots' (where the disappearance of already-threatened moist tropical forest would cause the greatest losses of biodiversity) include the remaining forests in Philippines, peninsular Malaysia, northwestern Borneo, the eastern Himalayas, the Western Ghats in India, southeastern Sri Lanka and New Caledonia.
The Cape Floral Kingdom in South Africa has the highest recorded species diversity for any similar sized temperate or tropical region in the world. The Cape Floral Kingdom is the world's 'hottest hotspot' of global conservation concern due to the risks and threats currently facing the area. South Africa is the only country on Earth to have within its national confines such an entire plant kingdom - one of just six in the world.