Plant and Soil

, Volume 403, Issue 1–2, pp 167–216 | Cite as

Biodiversity hotspots and Ocbil theory

  • Stephen D. Hopper
  • Fernando A. O. Silveira
  • Peggy L. Fiedler
Marschner Review



Ocbil theory aims to develop hypotheses explaining the evolution and ecology of, and best conservation practices for, biota on very old, climatically buffered, infertile landscapes (Ocbils).


This paper reviews recent multi-disciplinary literature inspired by or reacting to aspects of Ocbil theory and discusses how it can assist conservation in biodiversity hotspots.


Ocbils occur in at least 12 out of 35 known terrestrial hotspots, but also in other biologically significant sites. Most evidence comes from the Southwest Australian and Greater Cape Floristic Regions, South America’s Pantepui, and the Campo Rupestre of Brazil, though predictions of the theory have been corroborated in 22 sites across South America, Western and Eastern Africa, Southern Asia, and Oceania. Most hypotheses have been corroborated, indicating that Ocbil theory has survived largely intact after 6 years of independent scientific critique, quantitative experimentation, and development. The theory also has been extended to allow identification and characterization of OCBISs (old, climatically-buffered, infertile seascapes), and OCFELs (old, climatically-buffered, fertile landscapes). We illustrate that the principles of Ocbil theory are key to conservation of biodiversity at global scale and provide new directions for research that can improve the theoretical and practical contributions of Ocbil theory.


Conservation Evolution Landscapes P-limited OCBIS OCFEL 



We are grateful to many colleagues who have helped advance our reading of the contemporary literature or assisted in research. Assembly of the paper was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award to SDH as part of a Discovery Project on vertebrate pollination ecology (DP140103357). Grants from the Great Southern Development Commission and Jack Family Trust also assisted materially. FAOS acknowledges a research productivity scholarship by CNPq. PLF was supported in part by research contracts from the University of Western Australia and the Western Australia Department of Parks and Wildlife Conservation. Richard Cowling provided constructive comments on the manuscript, as did six referees and the editor. N.P.U. Barbosa and D. Negreiros helped with Figures.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen D. Hopper
    • 1
  • Fernando A. O. Silveira
    • 2
  • Peggy L. Fiedler
    • 3
  1. 1.CENRM and School of Plant BiologyThe University of Western AustraliaAlbanyAustralia
  2. 2.Departamento de BotânicaUniversidade Federal de Minas GeraisBelo HorizonteBrasil
  3. 3.Natural Reserve SystemUniversity of CaliforniaOaklandUSA

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