Gondwana Rainforests of Australia

States of New South Wales and Queensland
S28 15 0 E150 3 0
Date of Inscription: 1986
Extension: 1994
Criteria: (viii)(ix)(x)
Property : 370,000 ha
Ref: 368bis
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This site, comprising several protected areas, is situated predominantly along the Great Escarpment on Australia’s east coast. The outstanding geological features displayed around shield volcanic craters and the high number of rare and threatened rainforest species are of international significance for science and conservation.

The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia is a serial property comprising the major remaining areas of rainforest in southeast Queensland and northeast New South Wales. It represents outstanding examples of major stages of the Earth’s evolutionary history, ongoing geological and biological processes, and exceptional biological diversity. A wide range of plant and animal lineages and communities with ancient origins in Gondwana, many of which are restricted largely or entirely to the Gondwana Rainforests, survive in this collection of reserves. The Gondwana Rainforests also provides the principal habitat for many threatened species of plants and animals.

Criterion (viii): The Gondwana Rainforests provides outstanding examples of significant ongoing geological processes. When Australia separated from Antarctica following the breakup of Gondwana, new continental margins developed. The margin which formed along Australia’s eastern edge is characterised by an asymmetrical marginal swell that runs parallel to the coastline, the erosion of which has resulted in the Great Divide and the Great Escarpment. This eastern continental margin experienced volcanicity during the Cenozoic Era as the Australian continental plate moved over one of the planet’s hot spots. Volcanoes erupted in sequence along the east coast resulting in the Tweed, Focal Peak, Ebor and Barrington volcanic shields. This sequence of volcanos is significant as it enables the dating of the geomorphic evolution of eastern Australia through the study of the interaction of these volcanic remnants with the eastern highlands.

The Tweed Shield erosion caldera is possibly the best preserved erosion caldera in the world, notable for its size and age, for the presence of a prominent central mountain mass (Wollumbin/Mt Warning), and for the erosion of the caldera floor to basement rock. All three stages relating to the erosion of shield volcanoes (the planeze, residual and skeletal stages) are readily distinguishable. Further south, the remnants of the Ebor Volcano also provides an outstanding example of the ongoing erosion of a shield volcano.

Criterion (ix): TheGondwana Rainforests contains outstanding examples of major stages in the Earth’s evolutionary history as well as ongoing evolutionary processes. Major stages represented include the ‘Age of the Pteridophytes’ from the Carboniferous Period with some of the oldest elements of the world’s ferns represented, and the ‘Age of Conifers’ in the Jurassic Period with one of the most significant centres of survival for Araucarians (the most ancient and phylogenetically primitive of the world’s conifers). Likewise the property provides an outstanding record of the ‘Age of the Angiosperms’. This includes a secondary centre of endemism for primitive flowering plants originating in the Early Cretaceous, the most diverse assemblage of relict angiosperm taxa representing the primary radiation of dicotyledons in the mid-Late Cretaceous, a unique record of the evolutionary history of Australian rainforests representing the ‘golden age’ of the Early Tertiary, and a unique record of Miocene vegetation that was the antecedent of modern temperate rainforests in Australia. The property also contains an outstanding number of songbird species, including lyrebirds (Menuridae), scrub-birds (Atrichornithidae), treecreepers (Climacteridae) and bowerbirds and catbirds (Ptilonorhynchidae), belonging to some of the oldest lineages of passerines that evolved in the Late Cretaceous. Outstanding examples of other relict vertebrate and invertebrate fauna from ancient lineages linked to the break-up of Gondwana also occur in the property.

The flora and fauna of the Gondwana Rainforests provides outstanding examples of ongoing evolution including plant and animal taxa which show evidence of relatively recent evolution. The rainforests have been described as ‘an archipelago of refugia, a series of distinctive habitats that characterise a temporary endpoint in climatic and geomorphological evolution’. The distances between these ‘islands’ of rainforest represent barriers to the flow of genetic material for those taxa which have low dispersal ability, and this pressure has created the potential for continued speciation.

Criterion (x): The ecosystems of the Gondwana Rainforests contain significant and important natural habitats for species of conservation significance, particularly those associated with the rainforests which once covered much of the continent of Australia and are now restricted to archipelagos of small areas of rainforest isolated by sclerophyll vegetation and cleared land. The Gondwana Rainforests provides the principal habitat for many species of plants and animals of outstanding universal value, including more than 270 threatened species as well as relict and primitive taxa.

Rainforests covered most of Australia for much of the 40 million years after its separation from Gondwana. However, these rainforests contracted as climatic conditions changed and the continent drifted northwards. By the time of European settlement rainforests covered only 1% of the landmass and were restricted to refugia with suitable climatic conditions and protection from fire. Following European settlement, clearing for agriculture saw further loss of rainforests and only a quarter of the rainforest present in Australia at the time of European settlement remains.

The Gondwana Rainforests protects the largest and best stands of rainforest habitat remaining in this region. Many of the rare and threatened flora and fauna species are rainforest specialists, and their vulnerability to extinction is due to a variety of factors including the rarity of their rainforest habitat. The Gondwana Rainforests also protects large areas of other vegetation including a diverse range of heaths, rocky outcrop communities, forests and woodlands. These communities have a high diversity of plants and animals that add greatly to the value of the Gondwana Rainforests as habitat for rare, threatened and endemic species. The complex dynamics between rainforests and tall open forest particularly demonstrates the close evolutionary and ecological links between these communities.

Species continue to be discovered in the property including the re-discovery of two mammal species previously thought to have been extinct: the Hastings River Mouse (Pseudomys oralis) and Parma Wallaby (Macropus parma).

Suggested Bases:

The Gold Coast is a coastal city in the southeast corner of the state of Queensland in Australia. The year-round warm weather and positioning as a large coastal city just south of Brisbane has made it a popular destination with travellers. Surfers Paradise forms the glitzy hub of tourist activity. Each year thousands of Australian students complete their secondary education by indulging in Schoolies Week by travelling to the Gold Coast for a week of partying. The XXI Commonwealth Games were held on the Gold Coast between 4 and 15 April 2018. The climate of the Gold Coast ensures that travellers are able to enjoy the area year round. It has a mild, sub-tropical climate, with an average high of 29°C in January and 21°C in July. The winter months tend to have little rainfall, while the summer has frequent storms originating from the west. Predictions of rain often equate to brief and intense afternoon storms, rather than extended periods of gentle rain [read more].

Brisbane is the state capital of Queensland. The Greater Brisbane region has a population of about 2.2 million people, making it the third-largest city in Australia. Large enough to be cosmopolitan yet small enough to be friendly and accessible, Brisbane is a ‘garden metropolis’ famous for its leafy, open spaces and the pleasant pace of life that unfolds between the zig-zags of its iconic river. Gaining international exposure during the 1982 Commonwealth Games, the 1988 World Expo, the 2001 Goodwill Games and the 2014 G20 Summit, Brisbane’s year-round warm climate, spectacular scenery, pleasant locals and world-class facilities have been the draw-cards for many domestic and international visitors, making Brisbane the fastest-growing city in Australia. Despite this rapid development, it maintains a youthful enthusiasm and is arguably one of the most laid-back and forward-thinking of any Australian capital city. It is perhaps best known as the main setting of the award-winning animated kids TV series Bluey [read more].

Newcastle is a city at the mouth of the Hunter River, approximately 150 km north of Sydney in the Hunter region of New South Wales, Australia. The city is the focal point for the diverse Hunter region that encompasses beaches and mountains, restaurants and wineries. Newcastle is a great place for surfers, wine buffs, bush walkers, and anyone interested in Australian history. The second largest city in the state of NSW and sixth largest in Australia, Newcastle city had a population of 153,000 and the suburban area of over 500,000. Similar to its English namesake, Newcastle was an important centre for the coal mining and iron ore industries. Newcastle is Australia’s oldest sea port, and the second most important in the country in terms of overall tonnage, and significant for coal exports. Many Novocastrians take an avid interest in sports, as participants, spectators or both. The local NRL Rugby League team, the Newcastle Knights are widely followed [read more].

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