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New species named after Asean biodiversity expert

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A close-up of the flower of Medinilla theresae. The species is only found in the Philippines. EDWINO FERNANDO

New species named after Asean biodiversity expert

ANN: MEDINILLA theresae, a new edaphic-endemic species in Dinagat and Mindanao Islands, was named after Dr Theresa Mundita S Lim, the executive director of the Asean Centre for Biodiversity and former director of the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB).

Dr Lim, a staunch wildlife advocate, also served as chair of the Asean Wildlife Enforcement Network and Chair of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The terrestrial, erect, cauliflorous shrub found in ultramafic soils stands up to 1.5 metres tall. To date, this species is only known to be found in Mount Redondo, Dinagat Island, and in Mount Hamiguitan, both located in Mindanao, Philippines.

Renowned taxonomists, professors, and researchers from the University of the Philippines – Dr Edwino Fernando, Dr Perry Ong, Dr Peter Quakenbush, and Dr Edgardo Lillo – are the men behind this species discovery.

“I am truly honoured and grateful for this recognition. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our taxonomists, scientists, and researchers who continue their hard work in discovering new species."

“I believe that taxonomy is a vital step in conservation simply because you cannot conserve what you do not know,” said Dr Lim.

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Dr Theresa Mundita S Lim, ACB Executive Director.

“The number of species awaiting discovery far outweigh those that have been studied. Millions of plants and animals have yet to be studied and may hold tremendous potential as sources of food, medicine, and other benefits to humans,” she added.

According to the CBD, in a world populated with more than 30 million species, taxonomists have identified only about 1.78 million species of animals, plants, and microorganisms in 250 years of research.

It is estimated that only 10 per cent of vertebrates remain to be described, but greater than 50 per cent of terrestrial arthropods and up to 95 per cent of protozoa are undescribed.

The sheer number of species that have yet to be discovered requires an army of scientists, each with their own area of expertise, to identify, name, classify, and study the millions of species on Earth.

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The terrestrial, erect, cauliflorous shrub found in ultramafic soils stands up to 1.5 metres tall. EDWINO FERNANDO

The issue is compounded by the unprecedented rate of global biodiversity loss due to habitat degradation, unsustainable use, pollution, climate change, and other pressures. These pressures increase the risk of extinction of vulnerable species and it is certain that some species are already lost even before they are named and described.

The ACB was established in 2005 by the Asean member states as a response to biodiversity loss in the region.

The centre supports and coordinates the implementation of activities in the Asean leading to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, for the benefit of the region and the AMS.

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