Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Biological Sciences


Biological Sciences


Matt Ritter


Myers first identified the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots and pioneered innovative ideas about the usefulness of biodiversity models for establishing long-term resource conservation strategies at global scales. Since Myers, most of the subsequent studies using hotspot science for biodiversity modeling have used large spatial scales like countries, provinces or states, and other biogeoraphic regions. The California Floristic Province continues to be one of the recognized global biodiversity hotspots. Our study site, San Luis Obispo County is within this hotspot and we created a map of plant biodiversity hotspots at the county scale using GIS technology. We wanted to determine the effectiveness and applicability of biodiversity hotspot mapping at this scale with anticipation that the map will serve as a new tool for establishing long-term resource conservation strategies in the County. Our plant biodiversity hotspot map is based on distribution data collected from herbarium specimens of San Luis Obispo County’s rare flora. These data were extracted from the Hoover Herbarium at Cal Poly and manually digitized into GIS. We built a model with GIS to identify, locate, and quantify the resultant hotspots from the data. The overall approach was successful at identifying and quantifying the attributes and geographic extents of plant biodiversity hotspots at the county scale. Our results are highly applicable for establishing local and regional plant conservation priorities at lower resolutions, which is frequently where land acquisition and reserve establishment occurs. We conclude that biodiversity hotspot modeling with GIS is an effective tool that can be applied to many other finer-scale biological inventories for conservation purposes.