|Ocean Biodiversity. Photo: OceanbiodiversityTumblr|
The Philippines was regarded as one of the 17 mega-diversity countries in the world because it is blessed with an exceptionally rich diversity of species and an amazing abundance of endemic species. Endemic species refers to those organisms that are found nowhere else in the world except the particular place specified. Source
Two decades later it has lost its ranking. Other countries did their best to be biodiversity champions. The Philippines? It simply appears to have forgotten to preserve and protect the environment.
In the Philippines, habitats where animals live are threatened by poverty, migrations, logging and industry. Many of these problems are manifestations of unchecked population growth, poverty and corruption.
Many regard the Philippines as the hottest biodiversity spot of all because its vast numbers of species and the predicament they are in. Of the 1,196 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles in the country, nearly 46 percent are endemic. Among plants, the number is around 40 percent. Habitat loss threatens more than 70 percent of the 500 species unique to the Philippines.
No doubt the extinction of some them is unavoidable. Only about 5 percent of the Philippines land area is under some form of protection. Source
|Venezuela’s Angel Falls, the world's tallest waterfall.|
Photo by Rhett A. Butler
The top 10 most biodiverse countries
by Rhett Butler
Just missing the top 10:
Several countries — Bolivia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Malaysia, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, and Tanzania — narrowly missed the top 10. For some plant and animal groups, some of these countries do make their respective top 10s, including South Africa for vascular plants and Papua New Guinea for animals.
#10 (tie): United States and Venezuela
While they may be polar opposites in terms of current political ideology, Venezuela and the United States have at least one thing in common: incredibly high levels of biodiversity. Due to its diversity of freshwater and marine ecosystems, the United States ranks particularly high in terms of fish species, while Venezuela is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries when it comes to birds.
Despite having a smaller land area than the state of Arizona, Ecuador outpaces the entire United States when it comes to biodiversity. The country — which spans the Andes-Amazon region and includes the Galapagos archipelago — outranks the U.S. in bird (1588 bird species in Ecuador versus the USA’s 844 species) and amphibian species (539 species versus 300 species).
With a large landmass covering a range of ecosystems, India scores well across the board in terms of species richness. It ranks especially high when it comes to reptiles and birds. Some of India’s best known species are charismatic megafauna: elephants, rhinos, lions, and tigers.
|The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the world’s largest coal reef.|
Photo: Rhett A. Butler
Australia really outperforms when it comes to reptiles and fish, leading the world in both categories according to The Reptile Database and FishBase. The Great Barrier Reef and terrestrial ecosystems ranging from dry deserts to tropical rainforests give the continent-nation a boost in the rankings.
Unsurprisingly, three of the top six countries on this list are in South America, which is home of the world’s largest rainforest: the Amazon. Peru is second only to Colombia in terms of birds and ranks in the top five globally for amphibians, mammals, and plants.
Spanning Meso-American rainforests, dry forests, mountain habitats, and deserts, Mexico scores well across most plant and animal groups. Its strongest ranks come among birds, mammals, reptiles, and plants.
While most Americans probably think of massive cities when someone mentions “China” or perhaps the panda bear, the giant East Asian country is actually home to a staggering array of habitats, from tropical rainforests in Yunnan to the Gobi desert. China ranks particularly well for birdlife, plants, and fish.
|Rainforest in Indonesia. Photo: Rhett A. Butler|
An archipelago of more than 10,000 islands, Indonesia has a wide array of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, including parts of the world’s third largest rainforest and the famed Coral Triangle. Indonesia has the most mammal species of any country and is narrowly edged out by Australia when it comes to fish species, according to FishBase. It ranks fourth with 1615 bird species, according to BirdLife International. Indonesia is the only place on Earth where rhinos, orangutans, elephants, bears, and tigers can be found living in the same forest.
|Jaguar in Colombia. Photo: Rhett A. Butler|
Colombia’s incredible bird, amphibian, and plant richness allow it to beat out Indonesia on our index. With 1826 species, Colombia has more species of birds than any country on Earth. Colombia’s biological richness is a product of its variety of ecosystems, including tropical forests in the Amazon and Choco, mountain habitats like the Sierra Nevada and Andes, the grasslands of the llanos and páramos, and islands like Gorgona in the Pacific and San Martin in the Caribbean.
The giant monkey frog lives across the Amazon rainforest.
Photo by Rhett A. Butler
Brazil is the Earth’s biodiversity champion. Between the Amazon rainforest and Mata Atlantica forest, the woody savana-like cerrado, the massive inland swamp known as the Pantanal, and a range of other terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, Brazil leads the world in plant and amphibian species counts. It ranks second in mammals and amphibians, third in birds, reptiles and fish.
DATA SOURCES: AmphibiaWeb, FishBase, IUCN Red List, Reptile Database, Birdlife International, Mongabay.com, and UNEP-WCMC (World Conservation Monitoring Centre).