History - AustralianAustralian CultureAustralian IdentityAustralian animalsCultural Comparisons Between Australia and other CountriesAustralian Prehistory


Australian Environmental Issues

Blue-tongue
A true-blue battler

Box jellyfish
How to avoid the stings and what to do if stung

Crocodile
So you wrestle crocs...

Dingo
Unfairly judged in killing off the thylacine?

Echidna
The wise little gnomes of Australia

Emu
Victors of the great Emu war

Flies
Shaping everything from how Australians speak to how they salute

Funnel Web spider
Yyou'll never leave your ugg boots outside

Kangaroo
Most herbivores don't grow a spine until they are the size of an elephant. Not so the roo.

Snakes
Kill less people than cows

Shark attack Australia
How to ensure you don't go by the name of Bob

Tasmanian Devil
The solution to mainland extinctions?

Tasmanian Tiger
A sad tale

Wombat
Keg of muscle

Quoll
The mainland's largest marsupial carnevore

Mythical creatures
Yowies and dropbears; some say they are myths but those who are not afraid to talk have shared their stories

 

 

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William Robinson; Afternoon Light Springbrook

Australian Rainforests in Australian Culture

The barren outback is synonymous with many international conceptions of Australia; however, it is the rainforest which is the more significant ecosystem. Dating back more than 100 million years, the rainforests are more than 10 times older than the Amazon and still contain ferns, conifers and angiosperms that once covered the Gondwana super continent.

How long rainforests continued to cover most of Australia after the break up of Gondwana is a subject of debate. In 2002, the discovery of the remains of tree kangaroos in caves of Nullarbor Plain (now a desert) indicated that many of the rainforests lasted up the Middle Pleistocene (781 to 126 thousand years ago.) Just as there is debate when the rainforests retreated, there is debate about the cause. Some scientists propose that much of the retreat was caused by burning of the rainforest by humans around 60,000 years ago.

According to the theories, burning the forest had two major impacts. Firstly, the composition of the ecosystem changed as plants that could survive fire, or quickly recover from it, had significant advantages of plants that could not. Over tens of thousands of years, these plants evolved to encourage fire, not because they needed fire, but because fire allowed them to outcompete other plants. (Fire harms all plants.) As these plants became more dominant, fires caused by lightening strike became more common in the ecosystem. Fire sensitive species were largely wiped out. In the Kimberley, remnant rainforest clung on in gorges and shelters that protected them from fire and can still be experienced today. Outside of these shelters, some fire resistant trees hung in sparse woodland or was in turn surpassed by grass.

The second major impact of the bushfires was to dramatically decrease the amount of rain falling over Australia. Instead of condensation in central Australia resulting in low pressure systems pulling air inland from the oceans, central Australia became dominated by high pressure systems that pulled hot air from deserts over the forested regions. Furthermore, with fewer forests trapping water when it fell, the rain that did fall sunk into the sands or evaporated. As a consequence, water recycling largely stopped. In a rainforest, up to 50% of rain that falls will be sucked up by trees, be transpired and fall again on forest as rain. The more than the rainforests retreated, the less water recycling that occurred. A tipping point occured 40,000 years ago when the annual monsoon over central Australia failed, resulting in most of the rainforests being lost forever.

When Europeans arrived, they set about finishing off much of the little rainforest remained. In the last 200 years, three-quarters of the surviving rainforests have been cleared. Some of the rainforest has been cleared to make way for agriculture, but it has been to access the prized timbers such as Red Cedar, Rose Mahogany and Coachwood. Ironically, the desire to continue to access such timbers gave rise to demands to preserve the rainforests as early as the 19th century. Basically, loggers and furniture makers were concerned about rainforests being cut down to make way for agriculture and the associated repercussions for their industry.

Aside from in furniture making, the rainforest hasn't played a large role in Australian imagery or culture. Most visual artists have tended to drive over the rainforests of the Great Dividing Range as they have sought out the parched settings of the outback to create hellish visions of Australia. One exception has been William Robinson who has used the rainforest to create more heavenly visions.

William Robinson; Afternoon Light Springbrook

William Robinson; Afternoon Light Springbrook (2011). It would be wrong to say that Robinson has ever been a darling of the arts establishment. Arguably, this is because there is just too much beauty in his work.

Tarkine Rainforest

Cold climates are not often associated with rainforest, but the temperate rainforests of the Tarkine in Tasmania shows that the two are not mutually exclusive.

Tarkine Rainforest

The Daintree Rainforest has existed continuously for more than 110 million years, making it possibly the oldest existing rainforest.

Tarkine Rainforest

In Purnululu National Park, sandstone domes have provided some protection from fire, thus allowing rainforest to hold on where shrub and fire prone woodland has taken over elsewhere.

 

Invasive ferals

Carp

Carp and Trout
A tale of two ferals

New hope for Cane Toads
The many unknown predators of the toad

Rabbits
A fence almost 2,000 km long to keep rabbits out of WA? Sounds like a great idea! If it doesn't work, we'll build another one!

The Willow
How a change in its status from asset to weed led to fish kills with blackwater and blue-green algae outbreaks

To bait dingos?
Should the health of the ecosystem be considered or just the kennel club registration?

Koala control
What to do about the "koala plague" on Kangaroo Island

Cat
Apex predator in Australia. Confined to urban areas in America.

Environmental values

Environmental problems
How money and ideology shapes environmental "science."

Bushfire
Australia's Stockholm Syndrome with gum trees.

The Kangaroo industry
Should we eat skippy?

Climate change in Australia
Australia was once covered in rainforest. Could it be again?

Sustainability
The dark side of sustainable environmental policies

Native pets
Why no pet wombats?

 

 

       

Australian environmental science is defined by an ideology that is not unlike a prison warden. There, the scientists are not seeing themselves as part of the ecosystem, but as masters over it; protecting the rights of the species that they say have rights and killing those that they say do not…but inevitably killing both.

"It was always seen as desirable to remove or cull the introduced species. We also need to ask whether it was possible to do so, how it should be done, whether it could have unintended consequences and what it would cost? I don't think anyone really asked those questions." Physicist John Reid - 2012