Biodiversity hotspots are the places on earth richest in biodiversity. Humane Society International was key to developing the Biodiversity Hotspots intitiative in Australia.

The Biodiversity Hotspots Review began in 2002, when Humane Society International (HSI) and the Australian Museum developed a list of 15 priority biodiversity hotspots under the auspices of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) to present to the Commonwealth Minister. With the approval of the Commonwealth Environment Minister, the newly developed review helped to direct funding for the extension of the Natural Heritage Trust.

The Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) prepared regional plans and investment strategies to enhance biodiversity conservation; but priority funding was given to any regions containing hotspots. Funding was designed to conserve the unique values of the hotspot whilst addressing the specific threats that region faced. It was a great success - in 2003, national and regional funding for projects within the 15 hotspots amounted to $50 million, or roughly half of the NHT’s annual budget.

The National Biodiversity Hotspots policy was officially launched in 2003, with the decision to identify the 15 hotspots hailed as a “world first”. The Minister directed around $10 million of further funding to projects through the NHT regional component, with high priority regions, multi-regional zones and hotspots achieving priority. Additionally, it was announced that 8 bushcare co-ordinators and over 60 regional facilitators were being trained in hotspots conservation management, to help communities better manage their land.

Further Hotspot Initiatives

In early 2004, the federal government developed a $10 million Regional Natural Heritage Program (RNHP), in response to a proposal from HSI and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC). The three-year program provided grants to NGOs working on the ground in regional biodiversity hotspot areas overseas. The program leveraged a further $13 million, allocating resources to NGOs in Southeast Asian and Pacific island nations, with important biodiversity sites in Micronesia and Polynesia. These projects mainly focused on assessing and managing protected areas. Both HSI and the AWC served on the RNHP Taskforce formed to advise the Minister on program expenditure.

Purchasing and Managing Hotspots

In 2004 the Australian Democrats, supported by HSI, negotiated another hotspots program with the Prime Minister. Named “Maintaining Australia’s Biodiversity Hotspots”, the program provided $36 million over three years for domestic hotspots conservation efforts. At the forefront of this program was the Commonwealth Environment Minister, advised by an Expert Advisory Committee consisting of EPBC Act constituted advisory bodies, the Biological Diversity Advisory Committee and the Australian Heritage Council, along with HSI staff members.

The program contributed to the purchase of seven properties covering approximately 1.3 million hectares, with an additional 14 small properties covering 142 hectares in the Daintree area. Approximately $5 million was averaged through the acquisition component while $6 million was allocated under the stewardship component, targeting some 180,000 hectares and approximately 90 landholders. Monies left over at the end of the biodiversity hotspots program were subsequently allocated to the National Reserve System budget.

 List of Biodiversity Hotspots in Australia

  1. Einasleigh and Desert Uplands (QLD)
  2. Brigalow North and South (QLD and NSW)
  3. Border Ranges North and South (QLD and NSW)
  4. Midlands of Tasmania
  5. Victorian Volcanic Plain
  6. South Australia's South-East/ Victoria’s South-West
  7. Mt Lofty/Kangaroo Island (SA)
  8. Fitzgerald River Ravensthorpe (WA)
  9. Busselton Augusta (WA)
  10. Central and Eastern Avon Wheatbelt (WA)
  11. Mount Lesueur-Eneabba (WA)
  12. Geraldton to Shark Bay sand plains (WA)
  13. Carnarvon Basin (WA)
  14. Hamersley-Pilbara (WA)
  15. North Kimberley (WA)