The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia
The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia are very special places because their vegetation has its origins in the ancient supercontinent
of Gondwana. In geological time, over millions of years, Gondwana split up and the separate segments drifted apart from each other,
as well as splitting still further. One such segment became what is now known as Australia. In Australia some plant families survived
‘whose ancestry stretches back to the time when these groups first evolved on earth.’ (Floyd, A., p 137 ref 1).
In the northern hemisphere landmasses, major extinctions occurred, including the Cretaceous/Tertiary extinction of about 66 million
years ago and later Ice Ages. Such major extinctions did not occur in Australia, instead there were rather gradual modifications
occurring as responses to both geological and climatic changes. As a result, although the Gondwana forests no longer cover most of
Australia as they once did, there are a few, relatively small, pockets in eastern Australia where the Gondwana vegetation has
maintained a hold. It is these pockets of rainforests in south east Queensland (QLD ) and northern NSW South Wales (NSW) that are
now protected as World Heritage sites. The World Heritage listing ‘formally comprises parts of 27 National Parks, & Nature Reserves
and several other Crown reserves.’ (Cavanaugh J., p. 11, ref 1).
The region with the greatest concentration of Gondwana Rainforests has been recognised as one of Australia’s biodiversity ‘hotspots’.
It is known that ‘the Gondwana Rainforests contain an extraordinary diversity of plants with 1708 species, in 710 genera,
representing 173 families’. (Floyd A., p 135 ref 1) and previously unknown species are still being found. The NSW and QLD
governments therefore developed and, in 2010 put in place, the Border Ranges Rainforest Biodiversity Management Plan. This area
includes not only the World Heritage sites, but also other areas around them, including Declared Wilderness, and other wilderness
areas, National Parks, State Forests, Crown land and Commonwealth land as well as areas under private ownership. (See Fig 2 Land
Tenure, p13, ref 2). The plan identifies 134 species of plants that are listed on the National, NSW or QLD lists as Critically Endangered,
Endangered, Vulnerable, or Of Concern. (Table 7, Summary of threatened species and ecological communities addressed by this Plan,
p 27, ref 2)
This is the area in which I live - to the south lies the Nightcap Range, to the north Mt Warning/Wollumbin and to the west the Border
Ranges, all of which are included in the World Heritage Gondwana Rainforests listing. It is a treasure trove for a Botanical Artist.
For me it is a mystical experience to walk among plants whose origins are linked to our planet’s far distant past. It is also an
experience tinged with despair. Climate Change is already bringing noticeable changes to plant flowering/fruiting times and If the
current rate of Climate Change continues the life of the Gondwana Rainforests is seriously threatened, as indeed is life on the earth
as a whole. It is a threat for which we all are responsible and, if catastrophic loss of life - of plants and animals, including humans - is
to be averted, we must all take action now.
References: quoted passages come from two sources
1.....Eds. Roger Kitching, Richard Braithwaite and Janet Cavanaugh, 2010, Surrey Beattie and Sons, Remnants of Gondwana: A Natural and Social
........History of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia
2......Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW, 2010, Border Ranges Rainforest Biodiversity Management Plan, NSW and
........Queensland, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW