Biodiversity in Our World

Table of Content

The country’s assortment of individual islands, its tropical location, and the once vast rainforest areas have resulted in a notable level of diversity among specific groups of organisms and a very high degree of endemism. Endemism is primarily found in five major centers and five minor centers. The size of these centers varies greatly – from Luzon, the largest island (103,000 km²), which is home to at least 31 unique mammal species, to Camiguin Island (265 km²), located north of Mindanao and serving as the exclusive habitat for at least two mammal species.

The Philippines has seen a significant increase in the discovery of new mammal species over the past decade, with sixteen being found. This has contributed to a rise in the rate of endemism within the country, which is projected to continue increasing. In regards to plants, there are more than 9,250 vascular plant species in the Philippines, and approximately one-third of them can only be found within this country. The majority of plant endemism occurs at the species level rather than at the family level; while there are no endemic plant families, there are 26 endemic genera.

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The hotspot is renowned for its rich variety of endemic species such as gingers, begonias, gesneriads, orchids, pandans, palms, and dipterocarps. A remarkable feature is the presence of over 150 palm species in this region, with approximately two-thirds being exclusive to the area. Moreover, around 70 percent of the Philippines’ 1,000 orchid varieties are found solely in this location. The extensive lowland and hill rainforests of the Philippines were once dominated by at least 45 dipterocarp species. These majestic trees served as the primary canopy trees ranging from sea level to an elevation of 1,000 meters.

The Philippines hotspot is home to significant tree species that include giant figs (Ficus spp.) and Pterocarpus indicus. These trees provide food for fruit bats, parrots, and monkeys, and Pterocarpus indicus is also highly valued for its timber. The hotspot boasts a diverse range of bird species, with over 530 identified. Out of these, approximately 185 are endemic (35 percent) and over 60 are classified as threatened. BirdLife International has identified seven Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs) within the hotspot, namely Mindoro, Luzon, Negros and Panay, Cebu, Mindanao and the Eastern Visayas, the Sulu archipelago, and Palawan.

Birds, like other groups of animals, show a distinct regional endemism pattern. Each EBA (Endemic Bird Area) within the hotspot area has its own unique collection of bird species that cannot be found anywhere else in the hotspot. The hotspot is also home to one specific bird family called Rhabdornithidae, which is represented by the Philippine creepers (Rhabdornis spp.). In May 2004, a potentially new species of rail known as Gallirallus was observed on Calayan island in the Babuyan islands situated in northern Philippines. This species appears to be closely related to the Okinawa rail (Gallirallus okinawae) from the Ryukyu islands in Japan.

The Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi, CR) is the most famous bird species in the Philippines and is the world’s second-largest eagle. It exclusively breeds in primary lowland rain forest but has become extinct in areas other than Luzon, Mindanao, and Samar where intact lowland rain forests are located. The population of these eagles is currently estimated to be less than 700 individuals. Breeding programs in captivity have had limited success, making it crucial to protect their habitat for their survival.

Among the endangered endemic species in the hotspot, there are the Negros bleeding heart (Gallicolumba keayi, CR), Visayan wrinkled hornbill (Aceros waldeni, CR), Scarlet-collared flowerpecker (Dicaeum retrocinctum, VU), Cebu flowerpecker (Dicaeum quadricolor, CR), and Philippine cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia, CR). The Philippine hotspot is home to over 165 mammal species, with more than 100 of them being unique to the region (61 percent). This makes it one of the hotspots with the highest levels of mammal endemism. Additionally, 23 out of 83 genera in this hotspot are also endemic.

Comparably to the honeycreepers in the Hawaiian Islands and finches in the Galapagos, rodent diversification in the Philippines has occurred. The tamaraw, a dwarf water buffalo species (Bubalus mindorensis, CR), greatly stands out as the largest and most impressive mammal in the country. Restricted to Mindoro Island, its population has rapidly declined from 10,000 individuals a century ago to just a few hundred today. Other mammal species endemic to the Philippines include the Visayan and Philippine warty pigs (Sus cebifrons, CR and S. hilippensis, VU), the Calamianes hog-deer (Axis calamaniensis, EN), and the Visayan spotted deer (Rusa alfredi, EN), which now only exist in small populations on Negros, Masbate, and Panay islands. Additionally, the golden-capped fruit bat (Acerodon jubatus, EN), recognized as the world’s largest bat with a wingspan of 1.7 meters, is also unique to the Philippines. Previously believed to be extinct in the country, the Negros naked-backed fruit bat (Dobsonia chapmani) was rediscovered in 2000 on Cebu Island and in 2003 on Negros Island. In terms of reptiles…

There are approximately 235 reptile species, with around 160 of them being endemic (68 percent). Among the endemic reptiles, there are six genera, including Myersophis, a snake genus. On Luzon, only one species of Myersophis can be found, namely Myersophis alpestris.

The region also has a significant presence of the Draco genus, which consists of about 10 species of Philippine flying lizards. These lizards have unique skin flaps on their bodies that allow them to glide from trees to the ground.

In addition to these reptiles, there is an endangered freshwater crocodile called Crocodylus mindorensis (CR). This crocodile holds the unfortunate title of being the most threatened crocodilian worldwide.

From 1982 to 1995, the number of wild crocodiles dropped dramatically from 500-1000 to just 100 individuals. However, there is now renewed optimism with the recent discovery of a crocodile population in the Sierra Madre of Luzon. Conservation efforts, including projects by the Mabuwaya Foundation’s Crocodile Rehabilitation, Observance and Conservation (CROC) Project, are focused on raising awareness and protecting the crocodile’s habitat. Alongside crocodiles, other reptiles at risk include Gray’s monitor (Varanus olivaceus, VU) and the Philippine pond turtle (Heosemys leytensis, CR).

The world’s second known monitor species that specializes in eating fruit, Varanus mabitang, has recently been discovered in Panay. In this hotspot, almost 85 percent of the nearly 90 species are amphibians, most of which are exclusive to this area. The count of known amphibian species continues to increase as more new species are found and described. Notably, the panther flying frog (Rhacophorus pardalis) stands out among these discoveries due to its distinctive gliding abilities facilitated by additional flaps of skin and webbing between its fingers and toes that aid in generating lift during glides.

The frog species Platymantis is well represented in the hotspot, with about 26 species, all of which are endemic. Out of these species, 22 are considered endangered. These frogs breed in plants above stagnant bodies of water and have a unique development process, skipping the tadpole stage. The hotspot is also home to the Barbourula busuangensis, a primitive frog species that is vulnerable. The Philippines has over 280 species of inland fish, with nine genera and over 65 species found only in this region. Many of these fish species are restricted to specific lakes.

The Philippines is known for its diverse and unique species. One example is the Sardinella tawilis, a fish found only in Taal Lake. However, the introduction of non-native species like Tilapia has caused a serious problem in Lake Lanao, leading to the presumed extinction of many native fish species. On the other hand, this region is home to a large number of exclusive insect species, with approximately 70 percent of the country’s recorded insect species being found here. This includes 915 butterfly species, one-third of which are specific to the Philippines. Additionally, there are over 110 tiger beetle species in this area out of more than 130 known globally.

Biodiversity on earth encompasses various ecosystems, species, and genetic composition. In the Philippines, there exists a diverse array of plant species consisting of approximately 8,000 flowering plants and 4,500 non-flowering plants like algae, fungi, hepatics, mosses, and ferns. These plants are present in a variety of habitats including marine fresh waters as well as different terrestrial environments. It is estimated that around 30-40 percent of these species are exclusive to the Philippines and cannot be found elsewhere in the world.

These plants can be found in a wide range of habitats, including marine and freshwater environments as well as terrestrial habitats such as mangrove forests, lowland primary forests, and sub-alpine vegetation in the highest mountains of the country.

Status of Plants in the Wild

Over the course of history, humans have been utilizing and mistreating natural environments that are rich in native plants to meet their basic needs and fulfill other demands. Forests, which house a diverse range of plant species, are facing activities like logging, burning, and clearing without sufficient consideration for the outcomes. As a result, the Philippines has become internationally known as one of the “10 hotspots” due to these harmful practices.

The continuous depletion of forest products like rattan and resin, without any replenishment, is resulting in the dwindling stock. This rapid destruction and alteration of habitats are causing concerns regarding the potential extinction of numerous plant species by the end of this century.

Why Should We Be Concerned About Plants?

Plants play a crucial role in the interconnected web of life, supplying us with vital resources and contributing to advancements in medicine, energy, and lifestyle enhancements. Hence, it is essential to safeguard and conserve these plants as they serve as our guardians and saviors. Our survival would be impracticable without them.


  • Conducting research and field surveys to identify and gather information about critical plant sites as well as rare, endemic, and endangered plants of the Philippines.
  • Coordinating with various government agencies, private companies, consultancy groups, industry, conservation organizations, schools and universities, tourism agencies, etc. on projects and activities which pertain to plant diversity, conservation, and related fields.
  • Providing answers to inquiries of teachers, students, and the general public about plant diversity, local flora, critical plant sites, and rare and endangered Philippine plants. Publishing newsletters, brochures, pamphlets, posters, and popular publications about plant diversity and conservation.
  • Managing a specialized library on biodiversity publications for public use.

Providing training courses on plant inventory and conservation, including field survey, herbarium, and laboratory techniques, to school teachers, students, NGOs, GOs, and conservation organizations. The courses also cover plant identification and other related topics. Our resources include over 200,000 dried plant specimens collected from the Philippines and abroad, all identified and systematically filed. These specimens are widely recognized among botanists.

  • A specialized library on biodiversity, plant conservation, taxonomy, geography, etc.
  • Computerized databases on plants of the Philippines, their current botanical name, distribution, ecology, pertinent literature, etc. and on publications on biodiversity research in the Philippines.
  • Competent staff trained in conducting research on rare and endangered plants, and conducting training courses in plant conservation techniques, herbarium curation and herbarium management.

The Philippines is ranked 23rd globally and 7th in the Asian Region for its abundance of plant species. With around 8,000 flowering plant species, including a notable amount of orchids, our country stands out as hosting the majority of orchid species. In terms of botanical diversity, the Philippines ranks second among ten tropical hotspot areas. Sadly, these hotspots are facing habitat modification or loss.

Forest conversion to other land uses is happening at a rate of 3000 square kilometers per year, while the mangrove forest is declining by 50 square kilometers annually. In Palawan, there are a minimum of 1500 species of flowering plants, out of which at least 225 species or 15% are found only on the island. According to the country’s Environment and Natural Resources Department, more than half of the native fauna in the Philippines are facing threats of extinction.

The Philippines is globally recognized as one of the leading biodiversity hotspots due to its vast array of species that exist exclusively within its borders.

Among the 1,137 species of birds, mammals, and amphibians found exclusively in the country, 592 are considered “threatened or endangered” by the IUCN Red List. Additionally, there are 227 endemic types of flowering plants with the same status. Recently, public anger has been sparked by an incident involving a farmer who illegally killed and consumed a critically endangered Philippine eagle. This action has caused widespread outrage. The global population of this particular eagle species is both the largest and most at risk worldwide, with only a small number of pairs remaining. For many decades, conservationists have worked tirelessly to protect the Philippine eagle from extinction.

The bird was released into the wild in March after being healed from a shooting incident in September 2006. The farmer who shot the eagle now faces 12 years in prison for violating the Philippines’ Wildlife Conservation Act. The farmer admits to not knowing about the endangered status of the birds or the consequences of killing them. To address this lack of awareness among indigenous communities, the Philippine Eagle Foundation has started a door-to-door education campaign. They distribute leaflets to native peoples, educating them on the significance of safeguarding eagles and other species.

Despite the fact that tribal peoples are not mainly accountable for the precarious biodiversity issues in the Philippines, the country confronts severe poverty, a substantial issue of illegal logging, swift development to accommodate a burgeoning population, an extensive economic dependence on mining, and the intrusion of invasive species. It is possible that we might witness several extinctions in the Philippines in the near future; nevertheless, it is hoped that the diligent efforts of the government and conservation organizations will prevent the situation from deteriorating rapidly.

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Biodiversity in Our World. (2017, Feb 18). Retrieved from

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