The Earth is teeming with a broad variety of life, often referred to as its biodiversity. Think about the variety of life you encounter on a daily basis when you aren’t even actively searching for it – you may awake to birds chirping in the morning, pass grass and trees on your way into work, pass some woodland creatures such as squirrels or deer on your drive, watch the glow of fireflies or listen to the chirp of crickets at night. The diversity of life found on our planet is simply incredible. According to a 2011 estimate from the Census of Marine Life, there are approximately 8.7 million known species in existence on Earth, 6.5 on land and 2.2 million in the oceans. That figure is astounding! Think about it – humans are just one of 8.7 million species occupying the planet.
The earth may be a vastly diverse landscape, but some places are far more biodiverse than others. These are five countries around the world with some of the highest biodiversity. If you plan your next vacation around one of these destinations, you are sure to be met with an astonishing variety of animal and plant life.
1. Brazil, Colombia, Peru
What all three of these countries have in common, besides being located in South America, is that they are home to the Amazon Rainforest, the world’s largest and most biodiverse rainforest. This rainforest alone, covering more than 2 million square miles of the Earth’s surface, is home to one third of all of the species on Earth. Brazil, which contains 60% of the Amazon rainforest, is the most biodiverse country on Earth.
As an archipelago of more than 10,000 islands, Indonesia is a hotspot for terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Its rainforests are home to some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world, earning the country the distinction of having the most mammal species in the world and the second highest number of marine species, after Australia.
People may associate China with pandas, rice, and bamboo when thinking of the country’s animal and plant life, but in fact the country is home to an abundance of ecosystems, including the Gobi Desert and the tropical rainforest in Yunnan. China ranks among the top countries in the world for diversity of birds, mammals, and fish.
It’s no secret that Australia is home to a lot of animal species (think kangaroos and terrifyingly huge spiders), but its real strength in numbers in its reptiles and fish. The Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, is the largest living structure on the planet- so large that it’s visible from space! It’s no wonder that the country is estimated to contain about 10% of the world’s total fish population.
5. United States
The United States may not seem so biodiverse to our eyes, especially compared to dense ecosystems like those found on land in Brazil or beneath the sea off Australia, but the United States actually has one of the highest diversities of freshwater and marine ecosystems, and thus a highly diverse aquatic biota, especially of fish. In addition, Alaska alone is one of the more biodiverse places on Earth, as it is home to the largest temperate rainforest in the world.
While 8.7 million species globally is an incredible figure, that number is gradually diminishing and will continue to plummet, with certain species already extinct and lost forever and others gravely endangered. Scientists estimated that between 0.01% and 0.1% of all species become extinct each year; this may not sound like a lot, but comes out to thousands of extinctions every year. The biggest impact we can have in slowing the loss of biodiversity comes down to protecting land and oceans, as well as simple being environmentally conscious and playing our part in both practicing and encouraging sustainable, eco-friendly behavior.