Biodiversity hotspots and conservation gaps in Iran
Iran is one of the most important countries in the Middle East for biodiversity conservation. Because of the high habitat diversity in Iran, a wide range of animal species can live in the country. However, there is lack of knowledge about biodiversity hotspots in Iran. In this paper, the terrestrial mammal, bird, and reptile species listed as threatened (i.e. near threatened, vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered) at the global and national levels were studied. They included 18 mammal species, 26 bird species, and 7 reptile species. The biodiversity hotspots were identified using an ensemble forecasting framework based on MaxEnt model. The results indicated that 24% of Iran can be considered as the biodiversity hotspots out of which 10% are under protection. The results showed that large parts of Iran have potential to be considered as biodiversity hotspots. These areas were mostly located in northern Iran along the Alborz and Zagros mountain ranges; the latter stretches from northwestern Iran and spans the whole length of western and southwestern Iran. However, only a few of these hotspots are under protection. Therefore, it is essential to select new areas protected within biodiversity hotspots and to promote a network function of protected areas within these hotspots in Iran. Moreover, because of the few numbers of protected areas in Iran, it is important to conserve biodiversity outside the protected areas at least as buffers.