The impact of the hotspots concept has been astounding. Searching the Web yields numerous scientific papers that use the word "hotspot" to refer to biodiversity conservation, and analyzing these citations over time reveals a clear pattern of increase (see chart below). More importantly, the impact of the hotspots concept in terms of investment in conservation has been dramatic. CI adopted hotspots as its central strategy in 1989, and in the same year, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation implemented the hotspots as its primary global investment strategy.
In 2000, the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility joined CI in establishing the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. The MacArthur Foundation became a partner in 2001 and the Japanese Government joined the partnership in 2002, bringing the total investment to $125 million. The $100-million CI Global Conservation Fund, supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, also uses hotspots (along with high-biodiversity wilderness areas) to guide its investments. In total, more than $750 million is estimated to have been devoted to saving hotspots over the last 15 years, perhaps the largest financial investment in any single conservation strategy. The hotspots concept has also entered the mainstream as a tool for private sector businesses. For example, Office Depot explicitly gives preference to pulp and paper vendors that protect natural forests in the biodiversity hotspots and high-biodiversity wilderness areas.
Biodiversity conservation efforts in hotspots often require the ability to withstand and adapt to a rapidly changing socio-political climate. While it can be tempting to write off high-risk areas, experience demonstrates both the importance and the potential for maintaining a conservation presence in hotspots that are undergoing political difficulties. Madagascar, one of the most important hotspots, was almost abandoned by conservationists in the early to mid-1980s, and again during 2001 and 2002. Fortunately, several conservation (CI, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Wildlife Conservation Society) and funding (USAID and the World Bank) organizations persevered with their investments in the country. This resolve paved the way for the new President, Marc Ravalomanana, to give conservation a high priority in his government's development plans. In September 2003, President Ravalomanana committed to tripling the country's protected area network over the next five years, and just five months after this pledge he announced the establishment of 14 new protected areas, increasing coverage by 65 percent. This provides an excellent illustration of the conservation return on investment produced by the hotspots strategy.
Scientific impact of the hotspots concept. Green bars indicate the numbers of scientific publications with titles containing the word "hotspot" in the context of biodiversity conservation priorities. The red line indicates the number of citations of Myers (1988) and/or Myers et al. (2000) in the peer-reviewed literature. Data are derived from ISI Web of Science searches (25 Jan 2005).