Most geographically and ecologically varied regions in relation to its size

Some countries have hills and plains, rainforest and desert, ocean and mountain peaks, all within 100 km of each other. Some have a completely different ecosystem reasonably close to each other. Some countries have wildly different organisms from one ecosystem to the other. Which countries do you think fit this description best?

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Ecuador’s CBD country profile:

Ecuador is one of the 17 megadiverse countries of the world. This diversity is due to the location of the country in the neotropics, the presence of the Andes and the influence of the ocean’s currents on its coasts. It is divided into 4 well-defined natural geographical zones: coast, mountain range, the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands. In terms of conservation, it is divided into continental Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, although such efforts are not homogeneously divided in the country. Ecuador possesses 26 distinguished habitat types, each one with characteristic flora related to altitude and precipitation levels. Among them are three of the world’s 10 biodiversity “hot spots”, namely, the humid forests of the northwest, outside faces of the mountain range and the Amazon forests of the northeast. Ecuador is recognized globally for its vast floristic richness, which is still not very well known and often under threat. It is estimated that the country has more plant species per unit area than any other country in South America.


WOW! Thanks!

That really depends on what scale you’re talking about. Nation size, province/state size/ county/district size, town size, etc, and where you draw the lines between ecosystems.

As mentioned, at the nation size Ecuador is amazingly varied, but at a very local level tropical limestone karst environments are immensely diverse as they’re filled with wildy divergent microhabitats and microbiomes.

What are your bounding criteria?


Region size, many different types of ecosystem (not one diverse ecosystem), geographical variation

The most biodiverse regions worldwide are tropical mounain ranges. As @muir pointed out, Ecuador is “megadiverse” and a lot of that diversity falls within the Northern Andes, which is possibly the most biodiverse region in the world. There’s a very good paper by Rahbek et al. (2019) that details how this is likely due to the extreme climatic variation within tropical mountain ranges. They use data on vetebrates since that’s at least somewhat possible to collect and understand, and show that the Andes, and the Northern Andes in particular, hold an unparalleled diversity of vertebrates.
When it comes to endemism (areas having unique animals), the Andes still win out overall, but there are many mountain ranges with high endemism spread throughout tropical and subtropical regions. Madagascar and New Guinea are particular hotspots in part because of their isolation from other landmasses. Madagascar has some of the most unique animals and plants on earth because of its large size and ancient isolation from Africa. The Mexican and Himalayan plateaus are also hotspots of endemism, though not in the tropics per se. I’d note that Mexico in particular is an extremely geographically and biotically varied country even outside of the plateau. Finally, California in the US straddles two mountain ranges and has a very endemic flora and fauna in comparison to the rest of North America outside of Mexico.


I have to give a shout-out to South Africa’s fynbos region, an entire floral plant kingdom contained within one country’s borders. Within this area is a good example of the high biodiversity: Table Mountain in Cape Town - a single, flat-topped mountain 1,084.6 m (3,558 ft) tall that has over 1,500 plant species - equal to that of the entire UK (this is not to mention the additional species that could be found further south and east). It even has endemic creatures - one such example being the Table Mountain Ghost Frog!


Doesn’t hold a candle to Ecuador, and is only a US county, not a country, and not even a State, but I did want to give a shout-out to San Diego County in Southern California, which has some great marine habitats, rocky and sandy outer coast as well as bay and lagoon, coastal chaparral, but also mountains that get snow in wintertime, and on the other side of the mountains, the fabulous Anza Borrego desert, all of these areas in close proximity to one another. When I lived there in 1970, coming from England, I was just amazed.


Agree with others about mountains! I visit Crimea annualy, you have there old beech-hornbeam forests, oak forests, near-mountain steppes, petrophytic steppes, deser steppes, halophytic meadows, real meadows. All with some interesting water bodies in steppe part and many mountain rivers in mountains. Pretty high endemism too because of location.


Having ocean access adds a lot of possibilities. Inland - Taos County, New Mexico, has river and riparian habitat of the Rio Grande up to alpine tundra (13,000 feet elevation). I count 8 habitat types in an area 1/50 the size of Ecuador.


Hawaii is certainly among those. The islands of Maui and Hawaii in particular go from alpine stone desert, subalpine shrubland, rainforest, dry forest, desert, and littoral scrub within less than 30 km.


@vihaking Nice Thread

India is also one of the 17 megadiverse countries but is also a huge land area

However the Himalayas itself (a transnational landscape is high up on the list of biodiversity hotspots)

As an example and also to highlight here is the Gori River Basin located in the Himalayan State of Uttarakhand India ( The coordinates are 70°45′ to 81°5′ E Longitude, and 29°5′ to 30°10′ N Latitude.

  • 2200 sq kilometre square areas
  • Altitude range from 590 metres above sea level to 7434 metres at the top of SuNanda Devi Peak (formerly known as Nanda Devi East)
  • One of the lagest glacial systems in the State of Uttarakhand
  • 800 sq km or more of Alpine Areas
  • 6 Climate types - Nival ( Polar); Alpine ( Sub Polar); Sub-alpine ( Boreal); Montane ( Cool Temperate); Lower Montane ( Temperate); Subtropical ( Sub tropical)
  • Vascular plants lists the presence of over 2359 species (angiosperms 2258 spp, 891 genera, 170 families, Gymnosperms 7 spp, 7 genera, 4 families, and of pteridophytes 94
    spp, 38 genera, 25 families).
  • 330 species of birds (an Important Bird Area) Including the Cheer Pheasant, Satyr Tragopan, White-throated Tit
  • 40 species of Mammals - excluding Bats and small rodents. Mammals include the Snow Leopard, Musk Deer etc
  • 17 species of Fish Fauna
  • Fungi, Insects, Arachnids, have not been documented with any seriousness
  • organisms show a high degree of Himalayan, West Himalayan and Indian endemicity

Much of the above data is from old studies nearly 20 years ago. On some taxa information has improved but in many more they remain dismal.

Among the many references this is one of the best
(NBSAP - Gori River Basin Document prepared under the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan)


Actually, I think you’ve misspelled my username

Agreed, India is amazing (yet surprisingly similar to my country, Sri Lanka)

That is awesome!


That sounds interesting!

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Agreed! Credit must be given to even the lesser-known places!


Welcome to the iNat forum, @isaac_krone !

Apologies @vihaking277 did not wait for auto name complete.

I hope someday to visit Sri Lanka - my mother used to visit often before the pandemic.

Maybe you can record some Pied Thrush - they migrate to / from Sri Lanka to our place :-)