Day to day, most San Diegans are unaware of the natural treasures our area has to offer. Scientists describe our region as a biodiversity ‘hotspot’, meaning that it has a large number and variety of species including many that are endemic (found nowhere else on earth). To qualify as a biodiversity hotspot, a region must meet two strict criteria: it must contain at least 0.5% or 1,500 species of vascular plants as endemics and must have lost at least 70% of its primary vegetation. With the Madrean pine-oak woodlands of the Southeastern U.S., the California Floristic Province is one of only two hotspots in North America. San Diego has more biodiversity than any other county in North America. Along with the rest of California, it is among the top 10 biodiversity regions. Just across the border is the Gulf of California, including 244 islands and coastal areas, which UNESCO has listed as a World Heritage site.
Our region and state are also a hot spot for humans – California’s population has risen to 33 million and growing. Most of us live in cities along the coast and a tenth live in San Diego County. Because nature knows no borders, the county’s biodiversity is also influenced by populations to the south in Mexico and in other U.S. states to the east. Due to the myriad human activities that support such a large population, California’s wetlands, riparian forests, and coastal sage scrublands have been reduced to 10 percent of their original area, and native grasslands and vernal pool habitats to 1 percent. More of California's plant and animal species, 250, are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act than in any other state, and 180 more are proposed for listing.
HSWRI has long been a part of maintaining the health of refuges for these communities such as the Camp Pendleton and Miramar Marine Corps bases. Our science programs have a 47-year history of research to help reconcile the needs of humans and wild life. Today, there is a new commitment to sustainability and living in harmony with nature. To raise awareness of the plight of the wild life around us, the United Nations has declared 2010 as the International Biodiversity Year. HSWRI is doing its part to raise awareness by dedicating its 2010 Hubbs-Science Lecture Series to issues of biodiversity in our region and the world’s oceans.