Nature and Biodiversity

World Environment Day: An A-Z of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries

View of an Australian forest.

Australia is first in the world for endemic species. Image: Unsplash/Gagandeep Singh

Michael Purton
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate
  • There are 17 megadiverse countries – nations with extreme biodiversity.
  • The World Economic Forum’s Nature Action Agenda calls for public- and private-sector collaboration to stop biodiversity loss by 2030.
  • World Environment Day is held every 5 June to encourage action to protect and restore the Earth.

Biodiversity is essential for tackling climate change – it’s the world’s strongest natural defence against greenhouse gases.

But, without action to protect and restore the Earth, global biodiversity is at risk. This year's World Environment Day focuses on land restoration, desertification and drought resilience. It takes place under the slogan 'Our land. Our future. We are #GenerationRestoration'.

So what is biodiversity?

It’s all the different kinds of life in one area, from animals to plants to bacteria, and each one of these species and organisms works together in ecosystems to support what we need to survive – food, clean water, shelter and medicine.

Biodiverse ecosystems are natural carbon sinks, absorbing the harmful gas from the atmosphere.

At the United Nations’ 2022 Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in Montreal, Canada, governments from around the world agreed on a Global Biodiversity Framework to guide global action through 2030 to halt and reverse nature loss.

The World Economic Forum’s Nature Action Agenda initiative calls for multi-sector collaboration to achieve the objectives of the Global Biodiversity Framework.

What is megadiversity?

It’s a term for a country or region with a high level of biodiversity or different species, including a significant percentage of endemic species.

To be classified as megadiverse, a nation must have at least 5,000 plants that occur naturally only within its borders, as well as a marine ecosystem.

The 17 megadiverse countries comprise approximately 70% of the world’s biodiversity and have their own organization, the Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries.

Here’s the full list of countries in alphabetical order, along with some of the statistics that qualify them for megadiverse status.

Australia

  • First in the world for endemic species, such as kangaroos, koalas and dingos
  • 378 mammal species
  • 828 types of bird
  • 300 different lizards
  • 140 species of snake
  • 600,000-700,000 different plants and animals

Brazil

  • Contains 20% of the planet’s freshwater
  • Home to the largest wetland, woodlands, open fields, savannahs, and the rainforest
  • 43,893 plant species
  • 712 types of mammal
  • 1,900 different birds
  • 751 types of reptile
  • 978 species of amphibian
  • Endemic animals include Ashy Black Titi Monkey, the Brazil-nut Poison Frog, and the Apoclada Bamboo Plant

China

  • 1,244 bird species – one of the biggest bird populations in the world
  • 667 endemic vertebrate species, including Giant pandas, South China tigers and Tibetan antelopes
  • 581 mammal species
  • 376 types of reptile
  • 284 species of amphibian

Colombia

  • Has almost 10% of global biodiversity within its borders
  • Second in the world for the most plant and amphibian species
  • 1,800 species of bird, 73 of which are endemic
  • 456 mammal species
  • Endemic birds include Tolima Dove, Chestnut-winged Chachalaca and Sooty-capped Puffbird.

Democratic Republic Of Congo

  • Home to half of all African freshwater, with a wide range of flora and fauna
  • 3,000 endemic plant species
  • 280 species of reptile
  • 400 types of mammal
  • 216 amphibian species
  • 900 species of butterflies
  • Endemic animals include the okapi and pygmy chimpanzee (Bonobo)

Ecuador

  • The highly biodiverse Galapagos Islands are within Ecuador’s borders
  • 4,173 endemic plant species
  • 52 endemic types of bird
  • 394 reptile species
  • 415 species of amphibian
  • 369 mammal types
  • Native creatures include the Tanti Rocket Frog, the Ecuadorian Sac-winged Bat, and the El Oro Parakeet
Graph showcasing the number of endemic non-fish vertebrae species in each country.
The world’s 17 megadiverse nations ranked by the number of endemic non-fish vertebrate species in each country. Image: Conservation International

India

  • Home to two of the world’s bio-diverse hotspots: The Eastern Himalayas and Western Ghats
  • One of the most megadiverse nations in the world
  • 410 mammal species
  • 408 types of reptile
  • 197 species of amphibian
  • 1,250 bird species.
  • Endemic animals include the Nicobar Tree Shrew, Black-footed Gray Langur, Malabar Civet and Jungle Striped Squirrel

Indonesia

  • Second-highest number of bird species in the world at 1,592
  • 781 species of reptile
  • 270 types of amphibian
  • 515 different mammals
  • 25,000 flowering plants, of which 55% are endemic.
  • The archipelago is home to endemic species the Bawean Deer, Rock Island Snake-necked Turtle and Proboscis Monkey

Madagascar

  • 13,700 plant species, most of which are endemic
  • 389 species of reptile
  • 278 amphibian species, all of which are endemic
  • 282 types of bird
  • 220 mammal species
  • The Cuckoo-roller bird, Fossa and the African Helmeted Turtle can only be found in Madagascar

Malaysia

  • 210 mammal species
  • 620 types of bird
  • 250 species of reptile
  • 150 different frogs
  • 14,500 plant species
  • Native animals include the Leonard’s Pipe snake, Hose’s Pygmy Flying Squirrel, and the Woolly-Stalked Begonia

Mexico

  • Home to the second largest number of ecosystems in the world
  • 536 species of mammals, of which 30% are endemic.
  • 290 amphibian species, with 47% of them endemic
  • 704 types of reptile, and more than half are endemic
  • 1,054 bird species
  • Over 25,000 flora species
  • Native wildlife includes the Cozumel Thrasher, Alamos Mud Turtle and the Chinanteco Deer Mouse
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Papua New Guinea

  • Has the third largest rainforest in the world
  • Approximately 730 species of bird
  • Over 320 amphibian species
  • More than 300 types of reptile
  • Endemic wildlife includes carnivorous mice, tree-climbing kangaroos, and giant rats

Peru

  • Over 500 species of mammals, of which 70 are endemic
  • More than 1,800 bird species
  • Over 300 species of reptiles
  • Above 380 types of amphibian
  • Approximately 13,000 plant species
  • Native animals include the Yellow-tailed Woolly Monkey

Philippines

  • 612 species of birds, of which 194 are endemic.
  • 111 amphibian species
  • 270 types of reptile
  • More than 9,250 vernacular plants and 33% are endemic

South Africa

  • 858 species of birds
  • 299 mammal species
  • 110 endemic frogs
  • Native creatures include the long-nosed Golden Mole and the Riverine Rabbit

United States

  • 432 mammal species,
  • 800 species of bird
  • 311 types of reptile
  • 295 species of amphibian
  • More than 17,000 plant species
  • Endemic animals include the Channel Islands Spotted Skunk

Venezuela

  • Approximately 21,000 plant species, of which an estimated 38% are endemic
  • 8,000 endemic animal species
  • 1,417 bird species
  • 351 types of mammal
  • 315 species of amphibians
  • 341 different reptiles
  • Native creatures include the Sira Poison Frog, Sucre Spiny Rat and Fiery Squirrel
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