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The Philippines Is One of Only 17 Megadiverse Countries in the World

The 17 countries hold 70 percent of the world's plant and animal species.
IMAGE MICHAL LUKASZEWICZ
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For a country to be considered “megadiverse,” it has to have a super-rich biodiversity of animals and plants on land and in the sea. “Megadiverse Countries” is a term used to refer to the world’s top biodiversity-rich countries. Only 17 countries in the world can claim that distinction. Despite the environmental degradation in the country, the Philippines remains one of the most megadiverse countries in the world. 

According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), a country needs to have at least 5,000 of the world’s plants as endemic species, and have a rich marine ecosystem within its borders. The Philippines greatly surpassed both criteria. 

An Ultra-Rare South Philippine Kingfisher

Photo by Miguel De Leon.

In a 20-year study published in 2016, it was reported that Luzon has the world’s highest concentration of unique mammal species. In the study, it was discovered that a single mountain in the island had five unknown mammal species. There were dozens more. According to Eric Rickart, who is one of the authors of the study, some species are so unique, they are found in just one mountain and nowhere else. “That's more unique species on one mountain than in any country in continental Europe. The concentration of unique biodiversity in the Philippines is really staggering,” Rickart told Phys.org.

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The Tubbataha Reefs in the Sulu Sea also holds the world’s highest concentration of marine species. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1993 because of the unparalleled richness of its marine biodiversity—it has 75 percent of the world’s described coral species and 40 percent of the world's reef fish species. Nowhere else in the world has this marine megadiversity been observed.

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USAID reports that the 17 megadiverse countries hold two-thirds of the Earth’s biodiversity, and 70 percent of the world’s plant and animal species. “This is due to its geographical isolation, diverse habitats, and high rates of endemism,” writes USAID. 

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Aside from the Philippines, the 16 other megadiverse countries are the United States, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Madagascar, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, China, and Australia.

According to the UNEP, some countries, especially in the tropics, harbor far greater concentrations of biodiversity than others. Unfortunately, these countries also face the most serious threats to their ecosystems.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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