By Ellalyn de Vera Ruiz
A new plant species endemic to the Philippines has been named after Filipino biodiversity expert Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim.
Medinilla theresae is a new edaphic-endemic species that can only be found in Dinagat Island and Davao Oriental.
It was named after Lim, who works as the executive director of the Los Baños-based ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity. She was a former director of the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau.
The terrestrial, erect, cauliflorous shrub found in ultramafic soils, stands up to 1.5 meters tall.
This species is currently known to be found in Mt. Redondo, Dinagat Island, and in Mt. Hamiguitan, Davao Oriental.
Renowned taxonomists, professors, and researchers from the University of the Philippines — Doctors Edwino Fernando, Perry Ong, Peter Quakenbush and Edgardo Lillo—have discovered the new shrub species.
“I am truly honored 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,” Lim said.
“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 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, there are more than 30-million species worldwide, but 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 percent of vertebrates remain to be described, but greater than 50 percent of terrestrial arthropods and up to 95 percent 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.
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.