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Australian Biological Resources Study

Numbers of Living Species in Australia and the World

A.D.Chapman
Australian Biodiversity Information Services, Toowoomba, Australia
A Report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage, September 2005
ISBN (printed) 978 0 642 56849 6
ISBN (online) 978 0 642 56850 2

 


Comparisons

When one compares Australia against the rest of the world, it can be seen that Australia has a relatively high index of biodiversity. The Overall Diversity Index (DI) for Australia, as calculated by Groombridge and Jenkins (2002), is 0.608. This index is based on richness and endemicity and places Australia third after only Brazil (0.74) and Indonesia (0.731). A more realistic placing, using the Arrhenius equation (AI) which takes into account area relationships (Groombridge and Jenkins 2002), places Australia 11th, with a figure of 1.268, after Indonesia (1.844), Colombia (1.685), Mexico (1.621), Ecuador (1.519), Brazil (1.436), Venezuela (1.398), Costa Rica (1.358), Peru (1.344), Malaysia (1.28) and Madagascar (1.277).

A detailed study of comparisons with other countries has not been made, however the following table from the Brazil Ministry of the Environment (1999) which looks at biodiversity in Brazil (a country similar in size to Australia), may be of interest. It may be possible to update and improve this information for later versions of this document. Also see Appendix 4 in Groombridge and Jenkins (2002).

Table 2-2. Species richness and endemism of Brazilian vertebrates and higher plants in relation to other megadiversity countries

Number of species Freshwater fish Vertebrates (except fish) Birds Mammals Reptiles Amphibians Flowering plants Total
Total >3 000 3 131 1 622 524 468 517 ~50 000  
Ranking 1st 2nd 3rd 1st 5th 2nd 1st 1st
Endemic n/a 788 >191 131 172 294 ~17 500  
Rank   4th 3rd 4th 5th 2nd 1st 2nd

n/a = data not available.
Source: Mittermeier et al. (1997).

 

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Also the following table comparing biodiversity in a number of countries.

Table 2-3. Diversity and endemism of higher plant speciesa

Country Total diversity Endemism Endemism as percentage
of global diversity of higher plantsb
Brazil ~50 000–~56 000 ~16 500–18 500 6.6–7.4
Indonesia ~37 000 14 800–18 500 5.9–7.4
Colombia ~45 000–~51 000 15 000–17 000 6.0–6.8
Mexico 18 000–30 000 10 000–15 000 4.0–6.0
Australia 15 638 14 458 5.8
Madagascar 11 000–12 000 8 800–9 600 3.5–3.8
China 27 100–30 000 ~10 000 ~4.0
Philippines 8 000–12 000 3 800–6 000 1.5–2.4
India >17 000 7 025–7 875 2.8–3.2
Peru 18 000–20 000 5 356 2.1
Papua New Guinea 15 000–21 000 10 500–16 000 4.2–6.4
Ecuador 17 600–21 100 4 000–5 000 1.6–2.0
United States 18 956 4 036 1.6
Venezuela 15 000–21 070 5 000–8 000 2.0–3.2
Malaysia 15 000 6 500–8 000 2.6–3.2
South Africa 23 420 16 500 6.6
Dem. Rep. of Congo 11 000 3 200 1.3

Source: Mittermeier et al. (1997).

  1. Taking into account a total of 250 000 species in the world.
  2. The 17 megadiversity countries have between 155 475 and 183 025 endemic species, that is, from 62.2% to 73.2% of global higher plant diversity.
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Table 2-4. Diversity and endemism of vertebrate species in megadiversity countries

Country Mammals Birds Reptiles Amphibians Vertebrates
(except fish)
Non endemic
endemic
Endemism as % of global diversity:
all vertebrates
(excluding fish)
Freshwater fisha
Brazil 524 (131)b 1 622 (>191) 468 (172) 517 (294) 3 131 (788) 3.97:1 ~3.3 >3 000
Indonesia 515 (201) 1 531 (397) 511 (150) 270 (100) 2 827 (848) 3.33:1 3.5 1 400
Colombia 456 (28) 1 815 (>142) 520 (97) 583 (367) 3 374 (634) 5.32:1 2.6 >1 500
Mexico 450 (140) 1 050 (125) 717 (368) 284 (169) 2 501 (802) 3.12:1 ~3.3 468
Australia 282 (210) 751 (355) 755 (616) 196 (169) 1 984 (1 350) 1.47:1 ~5.6 183
Madagascar 105 (77) 253 (103) 300 (274) 178 (176) 836 (630) 1.33:1 2.6 75
China 499 (77) 1 244 (99) 387 (133) 274 (175) 2 404 (484) 4.97:1 2.0 1 010
Philippines 201 (116) 556 (183) 193 (131) 63 (44) 1 013 (474) 2.14:1 1.98 330
India 350 (44) 1 258 (52) 408 (187) 206 (110) 2 222 (393) 5.65:1 1.6 750
Peru 344 (46) 1 703 (109) 298 (98) 241 (>89) 2 586 (342) 7.56:1 1.4 855
Papua New Guinea 242 (57) 762 (85) 305 (79) 200 (134) 1 509 (355) 4.25:1 1.5 282
Ecuador 271 (21) 1 559 (37) 374 (114) 402 (138) 2 606 (310) 8.41:1 1.3 >44
United States 428 (101) 768 (71) 261 (90) 194 (126) 1 651 (388) 4.34:1 1.6 790
Venezuela 288 (11) 1 360 (45) 293 (57) 204 (76) 2 145 (189) 11.35:1 0.8 1 250
Malaysia 286 (27) 738 (11) 268 (68) 158 (57) 1 450 (163) 8.90:1 0.7 600
South Africa 247 (27) 774 (7) 299 (76) 95 (36) 1 415 (146) 9.69:1 0.6 153
Dem. Rep. of Congo 415 (28) 1 094 (23) 268 (33) 80 (53) 1 857 (137) 13.55:1 0.6 962

The 17 megadiversity countries have 8 443 species of endemic vertebrates excluding fish, or 33.1% of the global diversity of these groups.
Source: Mittermeier et al. (1997).

  1. Data on endemism in freshwater fish are not available. Freshwater fish are included only in the total species diversity.
  2. Numbers in parentheses refer to endemic species.
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