Diversity and Distributions, vol.29, no.2, pp.244-253, 2023 (SCI-Expanded)
© 2022 The Authors. Diversity and Distributions published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.Aim: The mountainous regions in SW Asia harbour a high number of endemic species, many of which are restricted to the high-elevation zone. The (sub)alpine habitats of the region are under particular threat due to global change, but their biodiversity hotspots and conservation status have not been investigated so far. Location: Subalpine-alpine habitats of SW Asia. Methods: Distribution data of all (sub)alpine vascular plant species of the region were compiled, resulting in 19,680 localities from 1672 (sub)alpine species, the majority of them being restricted to the region (76%). Six quantitative indices of species diversity were used on the basis of 0.5° × 0.5° grid cells to identify (sub)alpine hotspots. Hotspots whose surface area in the (sub)alpine zone was covered by nature reserves maximally by 10% were defined as conservation gaps. Results: A high proportion (80%) of the endemic species of the study area is range-restricted and narrowly distributed. The results of all six indices were highly correlated. Using the top 5%, 10% and 20% richest cells supported by any index, 32, 53 and 98 cells, respectively, were identified as Hotspots. Almost 60% of these Hotspots at all three levels were identified as unprotected (i.e. constituted Conservation Gaps). Generally, only 22%, 18% and 16%, respectively, of the alpine surface area of the identified Hotspots were covered by nature reserves for the top 5%, 10% and 20% richest cells, respectively. Main conclusions: Although the rate of protection in (sub)alpine Hotspots exceeds that of the entire region it is still insufficient, because these Hotspots are much richer in endemic and in range-restricted species, but at the same time are under high pressure of global change. Therefore, the establishment of new nature reserves with high conservation efficiency in (sub)alpine habitats with a particular focus on the identified Hotspots is strongly recommended.