Countries of the world with the greatest levels of biodiversity
Megadiversity Countries is a term used to refer to the world’s top biodiversity-rich countries in the world. This country-based method raises national awareness for biodiversity conservation in nations with high biological diversity, with many species unique to a specific country. This concept complements that of biodiversity hotspots and high-biodiversity wilderness areas to achieve significant coverage of the world’s biological resources and was first proposed in 1988. The Megadiversity country concept is based on four premises:1
- The biodiversity of each and every nation is critically important to that nation’s survival, and must be a fundamental component of any national or regional development strategy;
- Biodiversity is by no means evenly distributed on our planet, and some countries, especially in the tropics, harbour far greater concentrations of biodiversity than others;
- Some of the richest and most diverse nations also have ecosystems that are under the most severe threat;
- To achieve maximum impact with limited resources, we must concentrate heavily (but not exclusively) on those countries richest in diversity and endemism and most severely threatened; investment in them should be roughly proportional to their overall contribution to global biodiversity.
Year of creation
Global in extent covering 17 countries.2 The identified Megadiverse countries are: United States of America, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Madagascar, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, China, and Australia.
The principle criterion is endemism, first at the species level and then at higher taxonomic levels such as genus and family. To qualify as a Megadiverse country, a country must have at least 5000 of the world’s plants as endemics.2
While there is no specific management associated with this concept, 17 countries rich in biological diversity and associated traditional knowledge have formed a group known as the Like Minded Megadiverse Countries.3 These include 12 of the above identified Megadiverse countries. This group was formed in 2002 under the Cancun Declaration to act as a mechanism of cooperation on the conservation of biological diversity and traditional knowledge.
Legal and compliance – Since this is a country based biodiversity prioritisation approach mainly to raise awareness, there is no legal protection or compliance associated with the designation itself. The legal and compliance requirements present within these countries will relate to other designations of biodiversity importance present within each country, such as legally protected areas.
Biodiversity – These countries are of global biodiversity value based on the number and the level of unique species present. They include areas of high biodiversity importance as well as degraded land and urban areas and therefore more detailed information is needed to locate the actual distribution of biodiversity within these countries for site-scale assessment and decision making.
Socio-cultural – As these areas include a variety of human land-uses, rural and urban, as well as protected areas under a range of possible governance types, many social and/or cultural values are likely to be present in some parts.
- Mittermeier, R.A., Gil P.R. and Mittermeier, C.G. (1997) Megadiversity: Earth’s Biologically Wealthiest Nations. Conservation International, Cemex.
- Mittermeier, R.A. 1988. Primate Diversity and the Tropical Forest: Case Studies from Brazil and Madagascar and the Importance of the Megadiversity Countries. In: Biodiversity (Ed. E.O. Wilson). National Academy Press, Washington, DC. 145-154.
- Like-minded Megadiverse Countries website
- Megadiversity website
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