Accordingly, many scientists and conservation organizations are actively engaged in identifying threatened sites around the world where exceptional concentrations of rare or endemic species still exist and where conservation efforts might therefore be focused to best effect (Prendergast et al., 1993; Myers et al., 2000; Williams et al., 1996). For example, it has been estimated that as many as 44% of vascular plant species and 35% of all vertebrate species (exclusive of fishes) are confined to 25 biodiversity hotspots that comprise only 1.4% of Earth’s land surface, and that for the cost of perhaps as little as $500 million annually, a biotic reserve system centered on such treasure-rich locations could be a “silver bullet” for biodiversity protection (Myers et al., 2000). A related suggestion is that sites meriting high priority for protection should display exceptional concentrations of phylogenetically distinctive taxa (Vane-Wright et al., 1991; Faith, 1992a; Krajewski, 1994; Humphries et al., 1995; Crozier, 1997), the rationale being that organismal lineages with long-independent evolutionary histories contain disproportionately large fractions of the planet’s total extant genomic biodiversity (May, 1990b, 1994; Avise, 2005).
These various suggestions for biotic reserves need not be at odds. Indeed, given the dire prospects for global biodiversity in the ongoing extinction crisis and the total inadequacy to date of commensurate responses by most governments, the more natural parklands that societies can be persuaded to sequester under any reasonable biological motivation, the better. Furthermore, the parkland effort need not be confined to governmental initiatives, as well illustrated by the welcome activities of NGOs such as the Nature Conservancy and Conservation International. A related hope is that philanthropists and profit industries also will become increasingly persuaded of the urgency to protect remaining nature, if for no other reason than in their own enlightened financial (as well as ethical) self-interest.
To pick just one such example of the potential for private involvement, an inspirational business venture (“IQ RESORTS by PANGEA WORLD”) spearheaded by Hana Ayala (Lempinen, 2006) aims to partner responsible and forward-thinking members of the hotel/tourism industry with world-class scientists in a global vision to promote science and protect biodiversity as an integral part of the business plan (which would include the acquisition and preservation of extensive nature reserves in key locations, as well as the generation of new funding mechanisms for the biodiversity sciences). Three underlying premises of this initiative are as follows: (i) knowledge mobilized through scientific research is the ultimate inexhaustible resource; (ii) the world’s most spectacular and biodiverse landscapes and seascapes are primary reservoirs for scientific knowledge that in turn can promote long-term conservation efforts in pragmatically effective and economically sustainable ways; and (iii) the international