Acknowledging earlier approaches by biogeographers as well as topics considered in our previous Talking Circles, we considered the criteria and approach to conserving Biodiversity Hotspots, including the Sky Islands of the Madrean Pine-Oak Woodland areas in the Southwestern US and Northern Mexico.
The group discussed many examples for native species that serve keystone functions in the Sky Island region, as well as changes in ecological web relationships and the reintroduction of once-extirpated wildlife in some regions. Reflecting on Sky Islands as biogeographically significant features within larger arid life zones, such as desert or steppe lands, we discussed increasing levels of concern for: the decline of prairie dogs, conversion of steppe/prairie/desert native plant communities, effects to a host of small mammals that support raptors and predatory wildlife, missing or declining populations of native ungulates and carnivores, as well as the displacement of local knowledge connected to these areas.
As with any evolving perspective, thoughts and approaches by biodiversity specialists and conservation practitioners change with the context of the objectives that established the early hotspots from a range of global ecological types (sometimes referred to as "Global Habitat Types" on a world vegetation map). Once again, shifts in climate and significant changes in land use have created new challenges for sustaining areas that are themselves dynamic suites of interacting beings within their unique habitats.