The Philippines is admittedly one of the richest countries in the world as far as species biodiversity is concerned. Heaney and Regalado, in their book “Vanishing Treasures of the Philippine Rain Forest” published in 1998, captured the imagination of the science community and the rest of the Filipinos when they describe the Philippines as the “The Galapagos Islands times ten”. Galapagos Islands have a special meaning for biologists, because the unique plant and animal species composition and the high biodiversity of the place greatly influenced Darwin as he formulated the concept of evolution and the theory of natural selection.
Biodiversity isan important characteristic of ecosystem that is related to the number of different species they contain. It is the wealth of all living things on Earth today that is the product of millions or billions of years of evolutionary period and history.
The theory of natural selection states that, generally, it is the environment (or nature) that determines which of the new traits will or will continue in a population. The traits that persist will give the population high survival rates and high reproductive rates.
The Philippines is regarded as one of the 17 mega-diversity countries in the world because it is blessed with an exceptionally rich diversity of species and an amazing abundance of endemic species. Endemic species refers to those organisms that are found nowhere else in the world except theparticular place specified.
The Philippine Archipelago is composed of 7,107 islands with a total land area of one 30 million hectares. This means that, with the exception of Ecuador, the Philippines is the smallest of the 17 mega-diverse countries of the world. The Philippines covers only 2/100 of the total land area of the earth, yet 20,000 species of plants and animals were recorded here, half of which are found nowhere else in the world. Of the estimated 7,620 species of plants documented in the country, 5,832 are believed to be endemic. This puts the Philippines the 23rd ranking in the world and the 6th ranking in Southeast Asia in terms of plant diversity. The Philippines also occupies a world ranking of 4 in terms of bird endemism and 5 in terms of mammalian and reptilian endemism.
There are three major reasons why these species of living things are important to us. They are as follows:
- Species diversity serves as valuable biological resources that we depend on to provide our food, industrial and medical needs.
- Greater diversity of species provide more ecological services as well as aesthetic and cultural values of natural ecosystems, and
- Species of living organisms, especially those that are endemic to the Philippines, constitute not only national heritage but global patrimony as well.