A. Plant Diversity

1. Field Crop Diversity

Ethiopia is one of the major Vavilovian centers of origin/diversity for several domesticated crops and their wild and weedy relatives. It is an important primary and secondary gene pool for many field crop species that are useful sources of germplasm for economic traits in general and sources of genes resistance to diseases and pests in particular. Ethiopia is a primary gene center for field crops such as noug (Guizotia abyssinica), tef (Eragrostis tef) and the Ethiopian mustard (Brassica carinata). Besides, field crops such as barley, sorghum, durum wheat, finger millet, faba bean, linseed, sesame, safflower, chickpea, lentil, cowpea, fenugreek and grass pea have wide genetic diversity in Ethiopia.

2. Forest plant diversity

The forest resources of the country were grouped in 5 categories, namely, natural closed forests, woodlands, bushlands, plantations and on-farm trees. The current area coverage of each category is not available. It was believed that about 35% of the landmass of Ethiopia was once covered with closed forests. The revised current estimate of the closed forest cover of Ethiopia was 3.5%. The total number of woody species of Ethiopia is estimated to be 1017, out of which 29 tree species, 93 shrub species and 2 liana species are endemic. These species are represented in 104 families and 387 genera. Recently, a new tree specieshas been identified in the Ethiopian Somalli Region and has been named as Acacia fumosa.

3. Horticultural plant diversity

The major horticultural plant species grown in Ethiopia are categorized in five groups: root and tuber crops, fruits and nuts, stimulant and beverage species, herbs and spices and wild-edible species.

4. Medicinal Plant Diversity

Eighty percent of the Ethiopian people depend on traditional medicine for their health care (Dawit and Ahadu, 1993), and more than 95% of traditional medicinal preparations in Ethiopia are made from plant origin (Dawit, 1986).

5. Pasture and forage plant diversity

There are diversified pasture and forage resources adapted to different ecosystems of the country. Studies show that 736 species of grasses, 358 species of legumes and 179 species of browse trees recorded so far in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is known to be a centre of origin and diversity to a number of herbaceous legumes species in the genera: Trifolium, Vigna, and Lablab, among others.

B. Animal Diversity

1. Domestic animal diversity

Ethiopia has served as a gateway to domestic animals from Asia to Africa and its diverse ecology favored diversification of these resources. In terms of livestock population, Ethiopia stands first in Africa and 10th in the world in livestock population. The domestic animal population of the country is estimated to be 47.5 million cattle, 26.1 million sheep, 21.7 million goat, 1 million camel, 39.6 million chickens, 1.8 million horses, 0.4 million mules and 5.6 million donkeys.

2. Terrestrial wild animal diversity

Ethiopia is also endowed with diverse wild animal species, some of which are endemic to the political boundary of the country. There are about 284 species of mammals (Afework Bekele, pers. comm.), 861 species of birds, 201 species of reptiles (over 87 snakes, 101 lizards and 13 species of tortoises and turtles), 188 species of fish, 324 butterflies and 63 species of amphibians.

3. Aquatic wild animal diversity

There are about 30 major lakes, 12 major river basins and over 70 wetlands that are located in different ecological zones of Ethiopia. There are 188 fish species, 91 benthic and aquatic insects and 141 zooplankton species recorded so far from Ethiopia.

C. Microbial Diversity

Ethiopia’s heterogeneous environmental conditions are favorable for diverse microorganisms. Ethiopia is rich in traditional microbial fermentation and preservation of foods and beverage. These valuable microbial genetic resources have not been sufficiently studied, documented, and conserved. Micro-organisms are of great value to mankind because they benefit agriculture, industry, medicine, and environment in various ways.