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OCBIL theory was introduced as a contribution towards understanding the evolution, ecology and conservation of the biological and cultural diversity of old, climatically buffered, infertile landscapes (OCBILs), especially in the Southern Hemisphere. The theory addresses some of the most intransigent environmental and cultural trends of our time - the ongoing decline of biodiversity and cultural diversity of First Nations. Here we reflect on OCBILs, the origins of the theory, and its principal hypotheses in biological, anthropological and conservation applications. The discovery that threatened plant species are concentrated in the Southwest Australian Floristic Region (SWAFR) on infertile, phosphorous-impoverished uplands within 500 km of the coast formed the foundational framework for OCBIL theory and led to the development of testable hypotheses that a growing literature is addressing. Currently, OCBILs are recognized in 15 Global Biodiversity Hotspots and eight other regions. The SWAFR, Greater Cape Floristic Region of South Africa and South America's campos rupestres (montane grasslands) are those regions that have most comprehensively been investigated in the context of OCBIL theory. We summarize 12 evolutionary, ecological and cultural hypotheses and ten conservation-management hypotheses being investigated as recent contributions to the OCBIL literature.
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