The name ‘Gondwana Rainforests’ conjures up images of mist laden mountains, covered in prehistoric trees, ferns and mosses. Like something out of a dinosaur movie, you imagine a place far from civilization, untouched by man. Perhaps even on another planet or moon? You may be surprised to know that these forests are ‘just down the road’!
Two hours drive from Brisbane or Sydney and you can explore these unique world heritage listed Gondwanan rainforests. What will you find there that others may never see?
These forests are the most extensive subtropical rainforest in the world. They are unique; hence their world heritage listing. They span several national parks, approximately 50 separate reserves along the eastern temperate coast of Australia from Newcastle to Brisbane.
The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia aren’t your typical hot steamy rainforests. They’re cool temperate / subtropical rainforest, much cooler than their tropical counterparts and they support a different biodiversity. Not many places on Earth contain so many plants and animals that still resemble their fossilised ancestors. Like much of Australia, these forests are ancient places.
Gondwana was an ancient southern supercontinent. Australasia, Africa and South America were all once joined as Gondwana. This supercontinent was covered in temperate rainforest and as it broke up Australia moved north, warmed up and dried out. Remnants of this ancient forest are now Australia’s oldest vegetation type.
The oldest examples of the world’s ferns and conifers (Araucariaceae) from the carboniferous period are found in the Gondwana rainforests. You can find examples of primitive plant families that directly link back to the spread of flowering plants (Angiosperms) over 100 million years ago.
These rainforests cover a very small part of Australia (about 0.3 per cent) but about half of the Australian plant families and about a third of Australia’s mammal and bird species live there. The Border Ranges and Mount Warning – Wollumbin near the New South Wales / Queensland border is very diverse and has the highest concentration of frog, snake, bird and marsupial species in Australia.
Birds: These forests are home to the oldest lineages of the Corvida including the birds like the superb lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae), rufous scrub-bird (Atrichornis rufescens), bowerbirds and tree-creepers. Other birds include the marbled frogmouth (Podargus ocellatus), eastern bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus), black-breasted button quail (Turnix melanogaster).
Reptiles: It’s a herpetologists haven with chelid turtles (side neck turtles), leaf-tailed gecko (Phyllurus platurus), angle-headed dragons (or Forest dragons ), pouched frogs (Assa darlingtoni) and barred frogs to be found.
Mammals: Mammalogists can find at least 80 species for example, the parma wallaby (Macropus parma) the smallest member of the genus Macropus, the yellow-bellied glider, and the golden-tipped bat (Phoniscus papuensis).
Invertebrates: For those that love creepy crawlies with origins in Gondwana, there are fresh-water crays (Euastacus jagara), land snails, velvet worms (Onychophora), mygalomorph spiders (funnel-web spiders), the Richmond River Birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia) and glow-worms.
The parks that make up the Gondwana Rainforest of Australia are like ecological islands which are now surrounded by farmland. Many plants and animals are restricted to a few places within the parks or occur in widely separated and isolated populations. There’s little opportunity for connectivity between them and so each is unique in its own way.
So if you get the chance, don’t miss out on something as special as these forests. Grab your camera and tent and get out there to see what’s waiting for you to discover and experience!
Special thanks goes to K. Kriger for the fantastic images, visit his amphibian conservation website SaveTheFrogs.com.
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