Do you know where your orchids are? "Growing well in homes and botanical gardens" is not a sufficient answer, for surely we care about the ecosystems that are—and too often were—their homes. The news is not good: roughly half of all known plant species live in areas that, combined, cover only an eighth of Earth's ice-free land surface, ca. 17 million km². These areas, "hotspots," as Norman Myers has called them, are mostly tropical moist forests and include such places as Madagascar, Central America, and the Philippines. Of their original area, less than 10% remains. An additional 10 million km² of presently less threatened moist forests in the Amazon, Congo, and New Guinea house another quarter of Earth's plant species. About half of these forests remain, but they also are shrinking rapidly. So what can be done? Protecting the remaining large tracts of tropical forests is not a financially impossible task. Buying out logging leases is cheap, though protecting one's investment is altogether more difficult. Protecting the hotspots is even more difficult—they are more damaged, because more people live within them. Taking one of the richest hotspots, the Atlantic coast forest of Brazil, the presenter examined how to set practical priorities for conservation and the importance of taxonomic, biogeographic, and ecological knowledge in that process. What we do not know, he concludes, can most certainly hinder conservation efforts.
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