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Centres of Plant Diversity (CPD)

Sites of global botanical importance

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The Centres of Plant Diversity (CPD) project initiated by IUCN and WWF aims to identify which areas around the world, if conserved, would safeguard the greatest number of plant species. The project also aimed to document the many benefits, economic and scientific, that the conservation of those areas would bring to society and to outline the potential value of each for sustainable development, as well as to outline a strategy for the conservation of the areas selected.1 The CPD sites vary enormously in size, from extensive mountain systems, to island complexes and small forest areas. They are distributed around the globe, grouped into three geographical regions- Europe, Africa, South West Asia and the Middle East; Asia, Australasia and the Pacific; and the Americas.


Supported by

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)


Year of creation



Global in extent with 234 priority sites in various countries around the world (1998).1



The criteria adopted for the selection of sites and vegetation types are based principally on a requirement that each must have one or both of the following two characteristics:1

  • The area is evidently species rich, even though the number of species present may not be accurately known;
  • The area is known to contain a large number of species endemic to it.

The following characteristics are also considered in the selection process involving extensive consultations with experts in all the major regions of the world:

  • The site contains an important gene pool of plants of value to humans or that are potentially useful;
  • The site contains a diverse range of habitat types;
  • The site contains a significant proportion of species adapted to special edaphic conditions;
  • The site is threatened or under imminent threat of large-scale devastation.

Most mainland sites have in excess of 1000 vascular plant species, of which at least 10% are endemic, including some that are termed ‘strict endemics’- those endemic to the site. Island sites typically have fewer species, but a higher percentage of these are endemic. To qualify, island sites must have flora that contains at least 50 endemic species or at least 10% of the flora must be endemic.1



There is no specific management prescribed for CPD sites, although many are represented (at least in part) in existing protected areas, or are proposed for inclusion. Of the 233 sites for which data are available, 35% and 21% have more than 50% and 100% of the area within legally protected areas respectively. In terms of threat, 19% of sites have been classed as severely threatened, 32% as threatened, and 18% as vulnerable or at risk, many of which are in the tropics.1


Business relevance:

Legal and compliance – An area is not required to have any specific legal protection for designation as a CPD site. Legal recognition and protection can, however, be present either for some parts or the entire area of a CPD, as a result of their inclusion within other legally protected areas.

Biodiversity – The CPD are each important for the conservation of global plant diversity. These areas are identified based not only on high irreplaceability of species, but also include high vulnerability of the area, and therefore many are likely to hold significant biodiversity value. CPD sites vary greatly in size and those that are spread over large areas are of limited use for site-scale assessment and decision making.

Social-cultural values – The criteria for identification of the CPDs do not explicitly mention the involvement of local and indigenous communities in protection and management. However, in many CPD sites especially in the tropics and subtropics, local communities who depend on these sites for subsistence and income, and who protect these areas for certain religious and cultural values can be found.





  1. WWF and IUCN (1994–97) Centres of Plant Diversity: a guide and strategy for their conservation. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: World Wide Fund for Nature and IUCN. 3 volumes
    • Volume 1: Europe, Africa, South West Asia and the Middle East (1994)
    • Volume 2: Asia, Australasia and the Pacific (1995)
    • Volume 3: The Americas (1997)


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