The aim of this study was to test a method to locate all the foci, centres, and areas of endemism in a biodiversity hotspot in order to understand the influence of ecological and historical factors on the distribution pattern and to identify priority areas for future conservation projects. The study area was the Maritime and Ligurian Alps hotspot.
Analyses were performed on the presence/absence matrix of 36 vascular plant taxa endemic to the study area. For each operational geographical unit, the number of endemic taxa present was counted. Additionally, the weighted endemism value was calculated. Areas of endemism were distinguished using cluster analysis and parsimony analysis of endemicity. The influence of ecological characteristics and historical factors was evaluated using Multi-Response Permutation Procedure and the Nonparametric Multiplicative Regression. The Indicator Species Analysis (INDVAL) method was used to identify the species characterizing the areas of endemism. Our results show the importance and location of four main areas of endemism within the Maritime and Ligurian Alps and explain the distribution pattern of endemic plants. These areas are easily interpreted by historical and ecological factors, and INDVAL indicates which taxa took part in the history of each endemism area.