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The Nature of Northern Australia

The Nature of Northern Australia: Its natural values, ecological processes and future prospects OPEN ACCESS

John Woinarski
Brendan Mackey
Henry Nix
Barry Traill
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24h8n3
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  • Book Info
    The Nature of Northern Australia
    Book Description:

    Northern Australia stands out as one of the largest natural areas remaining on Earth- alongside such global treasures as the Amazon rainforests, the boreal conifer forests of Alaska and Canada, and the polar wilderness of Antarctica.  Nature remains in abundance in 'the North.' Its intact tropical savannas, rainforests, and free flowing rivers provide a basis for much of the economic activity and the quality of life for residents of the area. The Nature of Northern Australia details the latest science on the Northern environment. With increasing debate over the future of Australia's often forgotten North, this is a timely examination of its environmental significance, the ecological processes that make it function, and the economies that are compatible with maintaining healthy communities and people and healthy country into the future. The authors, Dr. John Woinarski, Professor Brendan Mackey, Professor Henry Nix and Dr. Barry Traill, are leading experts on the environment of Northern Australia, and combined have many decades of experience on Northern ecology and land management.

    eISBN: 978-1-921313-31-8
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Geology
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  1. If you leave the Wet Tropics around Cairns, and head west by car for an hour or so, the road goes up and over the mountains that lie behind the coast. On the other side, the rainfall drops off quickly, and you enter the great ʹseaʹ of savanna that stretches across Northern Australia. Still heading west, several long days of driving later, you will reach Broome on the edge of the Indian Ocean.

    For all this time, for all the 3000 or more kilometres of travel, you will have been among vast areas of eucalypt savannas and native grasslands, broken...

  2. The environment of Northern Australia can seem an odd mix. While it has an intimate familiarity to local Indigenous people, to those accustomed to temperate Australia, it has a strange character. Fires seem too pervasive and frequent; many of the native trees are at least semi-deciduous (they lose their leaves to save water during the Dry season); there is too much grass, some of it taller than a person; the eucalypts donʹt have that familiar evocative reassuring smell; even the colours of the bush seem somewhat harder. Parts of the landscape seem decidedly African in flavour, with the boab trees...

  3. Most analyses of the conservation values of a region simply document the natural values – catalogues of species, of particular habitats, of beautiful landscapes. We have chosen to look deeper than this simple stock-taking, and seek instead to describe how it is that those assets exist, what keeps them functioning, and what they signify.

    This chapter examines the fundamental ecological processes and connections that shape, drive and support the ecosystems and species that make up the environment of Northern Australia.

    The defining feature of Northern Australia is its pervasive naturalness. Modified lands – scattered towns and relatively small areas of...

  4. For many Australians, the overwhelming impression of Northern Australia is of nature in abundance: endless tracts of savanna, flocks of Magpie Geese sweeping down to a billabong, vast wetlands swollen from heavy rains. On a planet where nature is often the pieces left behind after intensive human modification, the North is a place where nature stands out.

    In the previous chapter we discussed the ecological processes and connections that maintain these natural values of the region. Here we give an overview of these values and their significance, globally and nationally. We do not attempt to describe the full suite of...

  5. In previous chapters we described some of the outstanding natural values of Northern Australia, noting that the North retains extensive natural landscapes, operating with unusually intact ecological functionality and offering exceptional levels of landscape health to its residents. It is an inspiring landscape to those who visit and a precious home to those who live there.

    But not all is well in this landscape. It is not robust beyond measure. Over the last 100 or so years, almost all of its environments have been exposed to a wide range of novel pressures and impacts, and those landholders who now manage...

  6. In part through the good management of the North by many of its landowners, in part because historical attempts at intensive development have been limited and fitful, and in part because of some resilience in the landscape itself, we have been gifted a great natural legacy – the largest intact savanna remaining on Earth, an extraordinarily vast, natural landscape with a rich biodiversity of international significance. The challenge is to ensure that this legacy is appreciated, respected and retained.

    This legacy provides an unusual opportunity to live in and use an extensive landscape, sensibly and sustainably. We can be guided...