Part 3: Record of the Panel's work in implementing Step B of the Methodology for Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland


3.1 Natural Heritage Themes, Sub-themes and Potential



Forested Places

Theme: Origin and development of biota and landforms as a result of Gondwanan plate tectonics and more recent stability and long isolation

Sub-theme: Passive continental margins

Marginal swells are characteristic of all passive continental margins. The Australian marginal swells are outstanding and exceptional in having volcanics to allow the process to be dated.

Passive continental margins are common to all continents. Many include an asymmetrical marginal swell that runs parallel to the coastline. In some cases, the outer part of the swell is eroded to form a spectacular escarpment separating a high plateau region from the foothill zone and coastal plain. In many cases, the passive continental margin includes features also associated with palaeoplains and palaeo-drainage systems. The sub-themes of Palaeoplains and Palaeo-drainage systems are therefore also relevant to this sub-theme.

Passive continental margins are represented in all three states being considered by the Panel. On the eastern side of the continent, the Great Divide and Great Escarpment form part of a classic passive continental margin that runs parallel to the coast and extends south from Queensland, through New South Wales, and into Victoria. This eastern continental margin shows great variation in its form at different places. It also experienced volcanicity during the Cenozoic Era (the last 65 million years), and there are numerous volcanoes and lava flows distributed throughout its length. These volcanic sites range in age from the late Cretaceous Period to the Quaternary Period and are significant in that they enable the dating of the geomorphic evolution of eastern Australia better than in any other passive margin of the world.

The south-western margins of the continent also exhibit a passive continental margin characterised by a marginal swell. The swell, which is situated between the coastal area and the inland plateau or palaeoplain, is of lower relief compared with the eastern continental margin. The western passive continental margin is also significant because of its well-preserved lithological and structural links inherited from junctions of Australia with Antarctica in the greater Gondwanan continent.

Places discussed by the Panel as major expressions of the sub-theme of passive continental margins in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland include: the region between Esperance and D'Entrecasteaux in south-west Western Australia; the New England National Park area, the Tweed Volcano, the Blue Mountains area, and the Cooma-Bega region in New South Wales; and the Johnstone River area near Innisfail, and the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland.

Western Australia

The Panel identified the region between Esperance and D'Entrecasteaux in south-west Western Australia as a major expression of the sub-theme of passive continental margins. This region includes ancient geomorphic features that date directly from the time of continental breakup of Gondwana (prior to 100 million years before present).

The region between Esperance and D'Entrecasteaux broadly runs from the Great Australian Bight in the east to the Darling Fault in the west. The region is divided by the Meckering Line into an outer area with coastward drainage of normal type, and an inner area of a palaeoplain crossed by lines of salt lakes which clearly mark ancient river sources. Rising in the part of Gondwana associated with Antarctica, the headwaters of these ancient rivers were lost with the continental separation. The region includes rock types and geomorphic structures that match with equivalent features on the Antarctic continent. These ancient features provide graphic evidence of Australia's links with the supercontinent of Gondwana. Their unique preservation has resulted from the unusual geological stability of the Australian continent.

The Panel commented on the importance of the geological stability of the Australian continent noting that, of the many factors that characterise the distinctive features of Australian landscape environments, the ability to preserve elements of great antiquity is of special significance. Elsewhere in the world, episodes of tectonic activity (particularly volcanic and mountain building episodes) and Ice Age glaciation and erosion have destroyed the legacy of ancient environments. Australia is unique in having remained relatively unaffected by such destructive forces and has retained examples of Gondwanan-age landscapes and soils. These are especially well preserved in the region between Esperance and D'Entrecasteaux in south-west Western Australia.

Although much of the region between Esperance and D'Entrecasteaux is outside forested areas, the Panel observed that the region extends into forest areas in the west.

While the region between Esperance and D'Entrecasteaux has a high significance as an expression of this sub-theme, in the Panel's view the region is not amongst the best global expressions of the sub-theme of Passive Continental Margins and therefore does not warrant further investigation in the RFA process.

The Panel also commented on the linkages between this sub-theme and the related sub-themes of Palaeoplains and Palaeo-drainage systems. Several of the features within the region between Esperance and D'Entrecasteaux have relevance as expressions of these other sub-themes. Places with these features were discussed under the appropriate sub-theme.

New South Wales

The New England National Park in north-east New South Wales includes outstanding and spectacular examples of the major features of the eastern passive continental margin. The erosional retreat of the Great Escarpment in this area has cut across a 19 million year old volcano, removing most of it. In the process, the retreat has exposed the feeder neck at The Crescent, and resulted in the formation of a huge cliff in the horizontal lavas at Point Lookout. The Park is in a forested area.

In the Panel's view, a representative sample of the significant features of the area related to passive continental margins is within the New England National Park. The Park is part of the Central Eastern Rainforests Reserves World Heritage Area and, therefore, was not considered further in relation to this sub-theme.

The Panel also considered the Tweed Volcano, an extinct volcano below the Great Escarpment. The Tweed Volcano is within a forested area. It is an important individual feature that exemplifies the unique volcanicity associated with Australia's eastern passive continental margin. The Tweed Volcano is included in the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves World Heritage Area and, therefore, does not warrant further investigation as part of the RFA process.

The Blue Mountains area, near Sydney, provides an impressive example of the Great Escarpment on the eastern continental margin. The area is famous for its spectacular geomorphological formations, including a large and complex array of deeply-dissected sandstone plateaux, steep escarpments and gorges. These structures have been formed by the effects of weathering, erosion and cliff retreat on the horizontal sandstones and shales that characterise the marginal swell in this part of the continental margin. Rocks of volcanic origin, particularly basalt flows, also occur and these are important in enabling the geomorphological evolution of the area to be dated. The Blue Mountains area has major significance both for its escarpment formations and as a site demonstrating the classic geomorphological processes associated with passive continental margins. These processes include uplift and subsidence, erosional processes and escarpment formation, and the evolution of drainage patterns. The area is mostly forested.

The Panel noted that several other parts of the world display typical geomorphic features of passive margins on a grander scale than those in the Blue Mountains and other parts of the Great Divide in eastern Australia. The two most significant are the Western Ghats of India, and the Great Escarpment of southern Africa. For example, the Drakensberg, in Africa, are at least as varied as the Blue Mountains and much bigger. The Great Escarpment of British Guiana and Venezuela are also bigger, and include the world's highest waterfall (Angel Falls, 980 m). The impressive sandstone escarpments of the Blue Mountains are also surpassed by expressions of globally-outstanding sandstone features on other continents, such as the Grand Canyon in the United States, the Drakensberg, and the sandstone plateaux (tepuis) of Venezuela.

Although important as a major and spectacular example of the Great Escarpment on the eastern passive continental margin of Australia, the Panel considered that the Blue Mountains are not amongst the best global expressions of the sub-theme of passive continental margins. The Panel also noted that the values of the Blue Mountains area in relation to the sub-theme may be important in an associative context; i.e., in possibly contributing values to a place which is a best global expression of another theme.

The Cooma-Bega region was discussed as an important area, particularly in relation to the landscape aspects of passive continental margins. The region includes a rich variety of geological and geomorphic features related to passive continental margin landscapes. These have the potential to make a major contribution to understanding of the evolution of these landscapes. The area is partially forested. While recognising the potential significance of the region's landscape features in a national context, the Panel concluded that, in global terms, the Cooma-Bega region does not warrant further investigation as a possible best expression of the sub-theme of passive continental margins.

Queensland

The Johnstone River area near Innisfail comprises a major expression of the sub-theme of passive continental margins. The area is a site of volcanic activity and includes an ancient lava flow which poured over the Great Escarpment onto the coastal plain. New valleys were formed on either side of the flow; these are now the sites of the North and South Johnstone Rivers.

The upland parts of the Johnstone River area are within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, which is included on the World Heritage List, but the lowland parts of the area are not within in the World Heritage Area. The Panel considered that the passive continental margin features of the Johnstone River area are represented within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. It concluded that the area does not warrant further investigation in relation to its expression of the sub-theme of passive continental margins, as part of the RFA process.

The Atherton Tablelands region displays many of the classic features of the eastern passive continental margin. It includes significant volcanic features on the plateau, including volcanic craters associated with Lynch's Crater, and Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham. Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham are within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, although Lynch's Crater is not. Lake Barrine is forested. Lake Eacham and Lynch's Crater were formerly forested, but the areas surrounding these crater lakes have now been cleared.

The Panel noted the representation of features of passive continental margins associated with the Atherton Tablelands within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. It concluded that the Atherton Tablelands area does not warrant further investigation in the RFA process in relation to this sub-theme.

Table 1 Places in forested areas of Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland warranting further investigation as possible best global expressions of the sub-theme of "Passive Continental Margins".

Sub-theme,

Exemplar

Forest Places in WA, NSW and Qld warranting further investigation

Values

Places in WA, NSW and Qld considered but excluded from further investigation in the RFA process

Reason for exclusion from further investigation in the RFA process

Passive Continental Margins

No places identified as warranting further investigation.


Region between Esperance and D'Entrecasteaux, south west WA.

New England National Park area, NSW.

Tweed Volcano, NSW.

Blue Mountains area, NSW.

Cooma-Bega region, NSW.

Johnstone River area near Innisfail, Qld.

Atherton Crater Lakes, Qld.

(Lake Barrine, Lake Eacham)

Atherton Crater Lakes, Qld.

(Lynch's Crater.

Not globally-significant

Part of Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves World Heritage Area

Part of Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves World Heritage Area

Associative value

Not globally-significant

Part of Wet Tropics World Heritage Area

Part of Wet Tropics World Heritage Area

Non-forest area

Sub-theme: Palaeoplains

Australia has outstanding examples of ancient soils, regoliths and landforms in its ancient laterites and duricrusts.

The area above the escarpment of a passive continental margin usually forms a palaeoplain. The ancient river systems associated with the palaeoplain constitute palaeo-drainage systems. The sub-themes of palaeoplains and palaeo-drainage systems are thus linked to the sub-theme of passive continental margins.

Palaeoplains occur extensively in Australia, many being associated with the remnants of the ancient lateritic and duricrust surfaces that are found throughout the continent, as well as with the areas above the escarpments of the passive continental margins. Palaeoplains are represented in all three states being considered by the Panel, although they vary greatly in form and age.

New South Wales and Queensland

In general, the major palaeoplain areas of New South Wales and Queensland; for example, including the areas to the west of the Great Escarpment of the eastern continental margin, do not have the same antiquity of landscape as those in central and western parts of the continent. They were not regarded by the Panel as likely to include possible best global representations of the sub-theme.

Western Australia

The south-west region of Western Australia includes some major expressions of the palaeoplains sub-theme. In particular, the Panel identified the area that extends from Norseman in the east to near Collie and Manjimup in the west as including highly significant examples of palaeoplains. The deeply weathered surfaces found in this region, which include expansive lateritic, bauxitic and kaolinitic surfaces, were formed in Gondwanan times. They rank as amongst the best examples of Gondwanan landscape remnants in the world.

The significance of the deep weathering surfaces found in this south-west region is further enhanced by their claim to being the world's best examples of such deposits formed at high latitudes. Deep weathered surfaces such as these are normally thought to require tropical to sub-tropical latitudes for their formation. Estimates based on palaeomagnetic reconstructions place the latitude of formation of these palaeoplain structures in the vicinity of 70º S, at latitudes comparable with the modern Antarctic coastline. The Panel commented that the genesis of these surfaces in near-polar latitudes is of immense significance for global palaeoclimatic reconstructions.

Although large parts of these palaeoplains are not within forested areas, the Panel noted that the western margins of these features fall within forested areas along the plateau above the Darling scarp, near and to the north of Manjimup. The Panel concluded that the south-west area of Western Australia, from Norseman in the east to near Collie and Manjimup in the west are of international significance as expressions of the palaeoplain theme, and therefore warrant further investigation as a possible best global expression of the sub-theme.

Table 2 Places in forested areas in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland warranting further investigation as possible best global expressions of the sub-theme of "Palaeoplains".

                       

Sub-theme,

Exemplar

Forest Places in WA, NSW and Qld warranting further investigation      

Values

Places in WA, NSW and Qld considered but excluded from further investigation in the RFA process

Reason for exclusion from further investigation in the RFA process

Palaeoplains

Best global expression:

South-west area, WA.

(western margins of the area that extends from Norseman in the east to near Collie and Manjimup in the west).

Palaeoplains, including deeply weathered lateritic, bauxitic and kaolinitic surfaces, formed during Gondwanan times at near polar latitudes.

Sub-theme: Palaeo-drainage systems

Australia has outstanding examples of Mesozoic and older river systems extant in its landscapes.

The palaeoplain formations referred to in the previous section also include palaeo-drainage systems. In the case of the eastern continental margin, the river systems to the west of the Great Divide represent palaeo-drainage systems; although many of these have been modified; for example, by changes to drainage associated with the evolution of the marginal swell. The palaeoplain formations in Western Australia include significant examples of palaeo-drainage systems which have been little modified since their formation.

Western Australia

The palaeoplain inland of the Meckering Line in the south-west region of Western Australia includes important examples of palaeo-drainage systems. The system of ancient river valleys that drains northwards, inland from the present coastline and associated with the palaeoplain region outlined under the previous sub-theme, constitutes a major expression of the sub-theme of palaeo-drainage systems. These ancient geomorphological structures represent Gondwanan-age rivers, the headwaters of which were lost at the time of the separation of Australia from Antarctica during the break-up of Gondwana.

The remnants of these ancient river valleys form a series of relict channels in which are situated many of the salt lakes in the region, ranging from Lake King in the east to Lake Muir near Manjimup in the west, including Lake Grace, Lake Lefroy, Dumbleyung Lake and many others. With the exception of the channel system associated with Lake Muir, which is situated on the Divide in the west of the region and is within a forested area, these palaeo-drainage systems lie almost entirely outside forested areas.

The Panel concluded that, in a global context, the Gondwanan-age river relics in south-west Western Australia represent a highly significant expression of the sub-theme of palaeo-drainage systems, but are largely non-forest and therefore do not warrant further investigation in the RFA process.

It also concluded that the palaeo-drainage values associated with Lake Muir, in forested areas, may be important in an associative context; i.e., in possibly contributing values to a place which is a best global expression of another theme.

Table 3 Places in forested areas in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland warranting further investigation as possible best global expressions of the sub-theme of "Palaeo-drainage systems".

Sub-theme,

Exemplar

Forest Places in WA, NSW and Qld warranting further investigation

Values

Places in WA, NSW and Qld considered but excluded from further investigation in the RFA process

Reason for exclusion from further investigation in the RFA process

Palaeo-drainage systems

No places identified as warranting further investigation.

South-west area, WA.

(including Lake King, Lake Grace, Lake Lefroy, Dumbleyung Lake and others).

South-west area, WA.

(associated with Lake Muir.)

Non-forest area

Associative value

Sub-theme: Fossils

Australia has fossil sites that are outstanding and exceptional in providing evidence of the key stages in the evolution of the Australian biota.

In discussing the sub-theme of fossils, the Panel noted that many hundreds of fossil localities have been recorded from the areas of the three states being considered. Together, these sites span the record of life on Earth. Sites considered to be the most important included those with significant records of past changes in climate, particularly reflecting continent-wide or global climate change, and those which document major stages in the evolution of the flora and fauna.

Many fossil sites in the states being considered, including some of the most significant sites, are located outside forest areas. The Panel noted the importance of these, and emphasised that they would need to be considered in any future work to assess the expression of the fossil sub-theme in the broader context of non-forested areas of the continent.

Western Australia

The Panel identified two major sites in Western Australia which are significant in recording the evolution of the vertebrate fauna. These include fossil sites in the southern Kimberley region, particularly the Gogo Fossil Site, and the Margaret River Caves in the south-west region of Western Australia.

The Gogo Fossil Site includes fossil remnants of a coral reef system from the Devonian Period (395-345 million years before present). The site is of major international significance in documenting the evolution of fish. Its significance stems, in part, from the exceptional quality of the three-dimensional preservation of its fossils. The site also includes fossils of many marine invertebrates.

Although occasional small patches of forest, including rainforest, occur in valleys in the Kimberley region, the Panel considered that the Kimberley region lies outside Australia's forest areas as defined under the National Forest Policy Statement (see Section 1.3 above). Southern Kimberley fossil sites were not considered further by the Panel.

The Margaret River Caves, situated between Cape Leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste in the south-west region of Western Australia, comprise a complex of cave deposits including six major sites and twenty or more minor sites. The major sites are: Mammoth Cave, Moondyne Cave, Foundation Cave, Strong's Cave, Tight Entrance Cave and Terrible Cave. The sites are associated with an ancient dune system which has been eroded to form the cave system. They include fossils of vertebrate fauna dating from the Pleistocene Epoch (l.8 million years to 10 thousand years before present). The cave sites are within a forested area.

The Margaret River Cave sites provide excellent records of the evolution of the vertebrate fauna of the south-west region of Western Australia over the past two million years. These records document evolutionary changes in the vertebrate fauna associated both with the effects of influxes of fauna from eastern areas of Australia, and with long periods of isolation caused by climatic factors, particularly arid phases affecting the centre of the continent.

The south-west region is also believed to have been unusual in having had a relatively stable climate at times when much of the rest of the continent was subject to major climatic change. These sites are important in providing direct evidence of the stability of Pleistocene climates in the region.

While recognising the significance of these fossil sites in relation to their contribution to zoogeography and to an understanding of past climate-change in the south-west of Western Australia, the Panel concluded that the Margaret River Caves do not warrant further investigation in the RFA process as possible best global expressions of the fossil sub-theme.

The fossil values of the Margaret River Cave sites may also be important in an associative context; i.e., in possibly contributing values to a place which is a best global expression of another theme.

New South Wales

The major fossil sites in New South Wales discussed by the Panel included: Canowindra Fossil Fish Site, Lightning Ridge Fossil Deposits, Cooma Area Fossil Sites, and Lake George.

The Canowindra Fossil Fish site, on the western slopes of the Great Divide near Canowindra, comprises one of the world's largest and most diverse mass-kill sites. The fossils date from the age of fishes, in the Devonian Period. The site is of major significance in relation to documenting and understanding the taxonomy and evolution of fish. It includes one major deposit and several secondary deposits separated by less than 60 kilometres; these deposits are in forested areas. The preservation of fossils at the Canowindra Fossil Fish site is not as good as some other known sites; for example, the Gogo Fossil Site in the southern Kimberley region. The Panel considered that the Canowindra Fossil Fish Site is not amongst the best global expressions of this sub-theme.

The Lightning Ridge Deposits include hundreds of fossil localities associated with opal mining. They are distributed over an area of approximately 100 square kilometres in the vicinity of Lightning Ridge and the Coccoran Fields, in north-central New South Wales. The fossils are from the age of Dinosaurs, and date from the early Cretaceous Period (136-100 million years before present).

The deposits are thought to have formed on the margins of the inland sea that occupied the centre of the Australian continent at that time. These fossils are of major importance in recording the oldest-known monotremes, and archaic mammals, as well as including important dinosaur and fish fossils.

The Lightning Ridge Deposits, in conjunction with fossil sites in Victoria, are of particular significance for the study of Polar Dinosaurs. They are also considered to have important potential for the study of past climates. The Lightning Ridge deposits are of similar age and include similar fauna to the Victorian sites, but they are not as scientifically important. Also, they are not in a forest area. The Lightning Ridge Deposits were not considered by the Panel as amongst the best global expressions of this theme. The Panel concluded that the Lightning Ridge Deposits do not warrant further investigation in the RFA process.

The Cooma Area Fossil Sites are situated on the southern Monaro Tablelands in south-eastern New South Wales. The sites include several major fossil deposits and are important for their records of evolutionary change of the vertebrate fauna during the past two million years, particularly associated with high altitude environments. The Sites are of particular significance in documenting Australia's megafauna, including the extinct giant marsupials and may also be of significance in relation to their records of climate change, although this has yet to be comprehensively documented.

The Panel commented that the Cooma Area Fossil Sites are inadequately researched at present. It also noted that the fossil values are similar but of lesser importance compared with those already represented in The Australian Fossil Mammal Sites World Heritage Area at Naracoorte. The sites are also outside forest areas.

The Panel considered that the Cooma Area Fossil Sites are not amongst the best global expressions of this theme. It concluded that the Cooma Area Fossil Sites do not warrant further investigation in relation to the sub-theme.

Lake George comprises a large, ancient lake site situated to the north-east of Canberra on the Great Divide, in southern New South Wales. The lake was formed by faulting in the arch of the marginal swell that comprises the Great Divide in this region. The faulting resulted in a large depression in the marginal swell, and the subsequent formation of the lagoon, Lake George, at its lowest point.

The Lake George site is of major international significance due to its long-term records of vegetation change associated with the fossil pollen preserved in the lake sediments. The fossil record comprises the longest pollen sequence documenting vegetation change, fire history and past climates in south-east Australia, dating back to approximately 3-4 million years before present.

As well, the Panel noted the charcoal record in the sediments of Lake George and its significance in documenting the history of fire and potential early human occupation of the region. It also commented on the importance of the geographical position of Lake George in documenting past changes from alpine to woodland vegetation associated with climate change.

Lake George was regarded by the Panel as the most significant pollen site in Australia, and likely to be a globally-significant expression of the fossil sub-theme. The site is situated in woodland areas and therefore is outside forested areas according to the accepted definition under the National Forest Policy Statement. The Panel commented that the Lake George site would need to be considered in any future assessment of the best global expressions of this theme that considered non-forest areas of the continent.

Other fossil sites in New South Wales were discussed by the Panel, including: Lake Victoria on the Darling River in south-west New South Wales, the megafaunal fossil site at Cuddie Springs, and the Pleistocene Epoch fossil sites at Wellington Caves. These were all noted as outside forest areas and, in the Panel's view, were unlikely to be best global representations of the sub-theme; they were not recorded further.

Queensland

Queensland fossil sites discussed by the Expert Panel included: Murgon Fossil Site, Fossil Sites of the Winton-Boulia-Hughenden Triangle, Fossil Sites of the Darling Downs and Chinchilla, and the Atherton Lakes.

The Murgon Fossil Site, located near Kingaroy in south-east Queensland, includes a single fossil deposit confined to one fairly compact site. The area was formerly forested, but is now cleared.

The Murgon Fossil Site is significant as the only site in Australia that records a diverse vertebrate fauna dating from the early Tertiary Period (55 million years before present), approximately ten million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs. The site includes some outstanding fossil records, including the world's oldest fossil songbirds, the oldest fossil marsupial remains in Australia, a possible placental mammal (Condylarth), one of the world's oldest bats, the only known fossil remains of leiopelmatid frogs, and the only known fossils of salamanders in Australia.

The Panel noted the significance of the Murgon Fossil Site for its combination of age and vertebrate faunal diversity, as well as for its outstanding earliest fossil records of several taxa. The Murgon Fossil Site was regarded by the Panel as likely to be significant in the international context. The site is no longer forested and therefore was not considered further.

The Fossil Sites of the Winton-Boulia-Hughenden Triangle comprise a wide scatter of deposits in a region between the townships of Winton, Boulia, and Hughenden in central, western Queensland. The sites have been dated to approximately 120 million years before present in the early Cretaceous Period. Fossil remnants at these sites collectively record climate change and evolutionary change of the fauna of the region over millions of years. The sites are believed to have been associated with times of marine incursion into the centre of the continent, and to have formed at the margins of an inland sea. The fossil record has been interpreted as reflecting cycles of marine incursion and retreat, with associated periods of increasing salinity and gradual drying out of the region.

The Fossil Sites of the Winton-Boulia-Hughenden Triangle are important in relation to their contribution to Australia's vertebrate fauna fossil record. The sites contain the best dinosaur-bearing deposits found in Australia. Significant fossils recorded from the region include Muttabarasaurus and Protosaurus. The region also includes one of the world's most important dinosaur footprint localities. The Fossil Sites of the Winton-Boulia-Hughenden Triangle are not within a forested area.

The Panel also noted that there are several North American sites with similar deposits that are of greater significance in the international context. It expressed the view that the Fossil Sites in the Winton-Boulia-Hughenden Triangle are not likely to have outstanding international significance, and therefore do not warrant further investigation as a possible best global expression of the fossil sub-theme.

Fossil Sites of the Darling Downs and Chinchilla, located east of Chinchilla in south-east Queensland, comprise a series of deposits from the Pliocene (5 to 1.8 million years before present) and Pleistocene (1.8 million to 10 thousand years before present) Epochs. The sites are of major importance for their fossil record of Australia's megafauna. They include the type locality for some of the recorded species of giant marsupials. They also include fossil remnants of some of the giant reptiles. While recognising the importance of these sites for their faunal records, the Panel noted that the Fossil Sites of the Darling Downs and Chinchilla are not within forested areas and that their values are already well represented within the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites World Heritage Area at Naracoorte.

A total of five volcanic crater lakes or lake remnants located on the Atherton Tablelands were discussed by the Panel, including: Lynch's Crater, Strenekoff's Crater, Bromfield Swamp, Lake Barrine, and Lake Eacham.

The fossil pollen preserved in the sediments of these deep volcanic lakes provides an outstanding record of vegetation change in the region over the past five hundred thousand years. This record is particularly important in documenting the impacts of climate change, fire and human habitation on the rainforest vegetation in the north of Australia. In conjunction with Lake George, in New South Wales, the Atherton Crater Lakes constitute the most significant record of past vegetation change and climate change for the eastern half of the continent.

Lynch's Crater is perhaps the most significant of the lakes in terms of the published record of its vegetation history. This record is particularly important in documenting the history of rainforest and sclerophyllous vegetation in the region. The Panel also noted the detailed work that had been done on the other lakes, particularly Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham, and commented that all of the Atherton Crater Lakes are likely to be important in contributing to this outstanding record of vegetation change.

Two of the crater lakes, Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham, are currently included in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, and Strenekoff's Crater may be partly included with the World Heritage area. Lake Barrine is forested. The other crater lakes are in areas that were formerly forest, but have now been cleared.

The Panel noted the likely international significance of the Atherton Crater Lakes in representing this sub-theme. It also commented that the major Atherton Crater lakes that are currently not part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, including Lynch's Crater, Bromfield's Swamp and Strenekoff's Crater, may require consideration at some future time as possible additions to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area for their fossil values.

The Panel noted that the Atherton Crater Lakes that are not within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area are outside forested areas, and therefore do not warrant further assessment in the RFA process.

Table 4 Forest Places in forested areas of Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland warranting further investigation as possible best global expressions of the sub-theme of "Fossils".

Sub-theme,

Exemplar

Forest Places in WA, NSW and Qld warranting further investigation

Values

Places in WA, NSW and Qld considered but excluded from further investigation in the RFA process

Reason for exclusion from further investigation in the RFA process

Fossils

No places identified as warranting further investigation.

Murgon Fossil Site, Qld.

Margaret River Caves, WA

Fossil Sites, south Kimberley region, WA

Canowindra Fossil Fish Site, NSW.

Lightning Ridge, Coccoran Fields Fossil Deposits, NSW.

Cooma Area Fossil Sites, NSW.

Lake George, NSW.

Fossil Sites in the Winton-Boulia-Hughenden Triangle, Qld.

Fossil Sites of the Darling Downs and Chinchilla, Qld.

Atherton Crater Lakes, Qld.

(Lake Barrine, Lake Eacham)

(Lynch's Crater, Strenekoff's Crater, Bromfield's Swamp).

Non-forest area

Associative value

Non-forest area

Not globally-significant

Not globally-significant, and

non-forest area

Not globally-significant, and

non-forest area

Non-forest area

Not globally-significant, and

non-forest area

Non-forest area

Part of Wet Tropics World Heritage Area

Non-forest area

Sub-theme: Refugia, Relicts

Australia has outstanding examples of relict biota reflecting ancient Gondwanan biota.

The evolution of the Australian flora and fauna during the Tertiary Period (65 to 1.8 million years before present) involved differentiation of the original ancient biota of Gondwana in response to conditions of increasing geographical isolation and climate change. While many elements of the flora and fauna underwent considerable evolutionary change during this Period, resulting in the high levels of endemism observed amongst present-day taxa, some elements of the flora and fauna were conservative. These have resulted in an important relict component of the present day flora and fauna which has shown relatively little evolutionary change since the middle of the Tertiary Period. In many respects, these relict taxa still bear strong resemblance to the ancient Gondwanan biota. Many relict taxa occur in refugia, or sites where suitable environmental conditions have buffered them from the effects of climate and environmental change, enabling their long-term survival.

Refugia, and relict species occupying them, are therefore important in understanding past environments and past distributions of species. The identification and evaluation of refugia and relicts is tempered by the nature and timing of the events which helped generate them. Relict biota reflecting ancient Gondwanan biota are most likely associated with humid sites which support, or could possibly support, rainforest. The Panel noted that many such relicts have already been identified in Australia. In many cases, there are good representative samples of these Gondwanan relicts in rainforest areas already included on the World Heritage List. Other relict taxa are derived from Tertiary events which have impacted the already-differentiated Australian biota; these are not strictly ancient Gondwanan relicts. Yet other relict taxa may be derived from more recent events.

The Panel considered a number of places with relict species in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland as possible expressions of the sub-theme of refugia and relicts. These are outlined below.

Western Australia

The terrestrial mistletoe, Nuytsia floribunda, is a highly significant relict species found in Western Australia. It is a primitive root-parasitic species with Gondwanan links and is commonly known as the Western Australian Christmas Tree. The distribution of Nuytsia floribunda extends from the Murchison River to the west end of the Great Australian Bight. It occurs in a range of habitats including open forest, woodland and heath. The Panel noted that the sites of greatest importance in relation to Nuytsia floribunda are outside forested areas.

Western Australia also includes places which are of significance in supporting extant species of vertebrate fauna representing relict families with clear Gondwanan links. These include endemic, monotypic taxa such as Pseudemydura umbrina, the Western Swamp Turtle. This species appears to represent the sister group to other side-necked turtles, and is a Gondwanan relic. Fossils from the Riversleigh site in Queensland show that the species was once widespread in Australia but is now confined to only two swamps in the Perth region.

Sites at Two People Bay, east of Albany in south-west Western Australia are of major significance in providing the only-known habitat for the relict species of song bird, Atrichornis clamosus, commonly known as the Noisy Scrub-bird. The major habitat for the species includes eucalypt trees in gullies associated with a hilly granite headland. Scrub birds are relict taxa of Gondwanan origin and are the most primitive living song birds. The oldest-known fossils of song birds are found in Australia, at Murgon Fossil Site in Queensland.

The freshwater fish, Lepidogalaxias salamandroides, which occurs in the headwaters of a number of catchments in the south-west region, is another significant Gondwanan relict species found in Western Australia. This endemic, monotypic species belongs to the Galaxiid group of fishes, which is an important Gondwanan group. Sites with Lepidogalaxias salamandroides, are found in forested areas.

At least sixty invertebrate taxa with Gondwanan affinities are known from forested areas of the south-west of Western Australia. Some of these exhibit marked differences in their distribution and abundance compared with taxa in eastern parts of the continent. Amongst these relict taxa, there are three that are of possible relevance as expressions of the sub-theme of refugia and relicts.

The Trapdoor Spider Moggridgea tingle is a very primitive relict species that occurs in Western Australia. Sites with this species may be important in representing the sub-theme. The primary habitat for Moggridgea tingle occurs in Tingle Forest areas in the far south-west of the state.

Another very primitive relict invertebrate species of possible significance is the Scorpionfly Austromerope poultoni. This species occurs in forested areas, and has been recorded from parts of the Darling Range near Boddington and Worsley, and areas further to the southwest, including Busselton, Yallingup and Manjimup.

The Water Mite genus Larri, which occurs in the Poorginup Swamp, Lake William, and in the Gardiner River near Chesapeake Road, was also discussed as an important relict taxon in Western Australia. The only other known examples of this genus are found in the northern hemisphere.

While recognising the importance of the Western Australian taxa and places discussed in relation to the sub-theme of refugia and relicts, the Panel considered that none of these are of likely international significance in their own right, and therefore do not warrant further investigation in the RFA process.

The Panel also noted that the Western Australian sites considered in relation to the sub-theme of refugia and relicts may be relevant in an associative context. That is, the refugia and relict values should be noted in relation to the heritage values of a place if it is identified as a possible best global expression of another theme.

New South Wales

New South Wales includes places with significant examples of Gondwanan relicts. One of the more outstanding of these relict taxa is the Wollemi Pine, Wollemia nobilis. This ancient gymnosperm species, which has only recently been discovered, is a "living fossil" of outstanding scientific significance. It is the only extant species of a Gondwanan gymnosperm group previously known only from the fossil record. The species is confined to a single known population at a site in the Blue Mountains area, near Sydney. It is discussed further in relation to the rainforest sub-theme.

Another important relict plant species found in New South Wales is the terrestrial root-parasitic mistletoe Atkinsonia ligustrina. This species is probably the most primitive extant member of the family Loranthaceae. It is endemic to the Blue Mountains, where it is confined in its distribution to a small area. Although it occurs within a forested area, its principal habitat includes exposed areas of woodland or heath vegetation.

The Blue Mountains area also includes another highly significant relict plant species, the primitive podocarp Microstrobus fitzgeraldii. This endemic species is restricted to southerly aspects on sandstone near waterfalls in the Katoomba to Wentworth Falls area of the Blue Mountains. Its habitat is limited to wet rocks within the spray of waterfalls, or on ledges or in caves near waterfalls. The only other extant species of Microstrobus in the world is found in Tasmania.

The Panel discussed two relict species of vertebrate fauna in New South Wales that it considered likely to be relevant to the expression of the sub-theme. The Mountain Pygmy Possum, Burramys parvus, is an important relict marsupial. Initially known from only fossil remains, the first living specimen of the species was discovered in 1966. Its current distribution is confined to higher elevation areas in New South Wales and Victoria. It is significant as the only Australian mammal restricted in distribution to alpine and sub-alpine regions. The fossil evidence indicates that Burramys parvus was formerly widespread in Australia about 30 million years before present. Deposits with fossil remains of this species have been found at Wombeyan Caves and Jenolan Caves in New South Wales, and near Buchan in Victoria.

The relict Rufous Scrub-bird, Atrichornis rufescens, is significant as one of the most primitive living song birds. It is typically found in stands of sub-tropical and temperate rainforest and wet sclerophyll eucalypt forest in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. Its habitat includes humid areas with stands of the Antarctic Beech, Nothofagus moorei. The species now has a discontinuous distribution, and is mostly confined to National Parks. Its main sites include Mt Barney National Park and Lamington National Park in Queensland, and Gibraltar Range National Park, New England National Park, Werrikimbe National Park and Barrington Tops National Park in New South Wales. All of these sites are within the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves World Heritage Area.

The Panel also discussed the possible significance of two major sites of Onychophoran diversity in New South Wales in relation to the sub-theme. Onychophorans are commonly known as Velvet Worms, and are important Gondwanan relics. Australia includes more than one third of the known species, as well as a large number of yet-undescribed species. The major Australian family, the Peripatopsidae, includes 56 endemic species in 36 genera. The phylum Onychophora is very primitive, with at least one group dating to the Palaeozoic Era (approximately 300 million years before present). The Velvet Worms were formerly considered to represent an evolutionary link between worms and arthropods but are now known to represent a separate evolutionary line.

The distribution of the Onychophorans in Australia extends from Cape York to Tasmania on the east coast, and also includes parts of south-west Western Australia. Most species have limited distributions within this range. Their preferred habitat includes humid sites with tropical and sub-tropical or temperate rainforest, or wet sclerophyll eucalypt forest, although some taxa extend into drier habitats. Two known areas of exceptional diversity of Onychophorans are the north-east region of New South Wales and contiguous border regions in Queensland, including sites in the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves, and the southern and south-western Monaro region, near Canberra in south-east New South Wales.

The Panel noted the importance of the New South Wales sites of relict taxa and refugial places that were discussed in relation to the sub-theme. It did not consider that any of these places are likely to be best global expressions of the sub-theme.

The Panel also commented that the sites considered in relation to the sub-theme may have significance in an associative context, i.e., in contributing to the heritage values of a place that is identified as a possible best global expression of another theme.

Queensland

The Mary and Burnett Rivers, near Maryborough in Queensland, are significant as the only known sites of occurrence of the relict Australian Lungfish Neoceratodus forsteri. The lungfishes are a primitive group of air-breathing fishes in the order Dipnoi. They first appeared in the fossil record from the Lower Devonian Period (395 to 370 million years before present). Only six species are extant; these include five species in South America and Africa, and one in Australia

The Australian lungfish is the only living species in the family Ceratidae, and is an important Gondwanan relic. The oldest known fossils of this species date from 125 million years before present. It is considered more primitive than any of the other extant lungfishes, differing in morphology of its fins and scales, in having a single lung, and in not aestivating during droughts. Its leaf-like fins also resemble those of Dipterus, the oldest-known fossil lungfish. The current habitat of Neoceratodus forsteri includes the Mary and Burnett Rivers and associated areas of marshes.

Significant sites for relict invertebrate fauna in Queensland were also discussed by the Panel. Rainforest areas of the Lamington Plateau, including the Lamington National Park and Border Ranges National Park, were identified as supporting many relict species of invertebrates with Gondwanan affinities, including some that are locally endemic. The Panel noted that significant areas of rainforest in this region, including those in Lamington National Park and Border Ranges National Park, are included in the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves World Heritage Area.

The Dawes Range area, including Kroombit Tops National Park north-west of Bundaberg, was noted by the Panel as important in relation to relict invertebrate fauna. Kroombit Tops National Park also includes important refuge areas for southern invertebrate taxa and is the only known site of occurrence of the mecopteran species Bittacus eremus in the southern hemisphere; this species is otherwise confined to the northern hemisphere.

The Blackdown Tablelands area, west of Gladstone in central eastern Queensland, was also discussed in relation to its significance as a site of relict invertebrate taxa. This area includes the only known inland species of the Cooloola Monster, Cooloola dingo.

While acknowledging the importance of these Queensland places as sites of relict taxa and refugial areas, the Panel considered that none of these places is likely to be a best global expression of the sub-theme. It commented that these places do not warrant further investigation in the RFA process in relation to this sub-theme.

The Panel also noted that the Queensland sites discussed may have significance for their refuge and relict values in an associative context; i.e., in contributing to the heritage values of a place if it is identified as a possible best global expression of another theme.

Table 5 Places in forested areas in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland warranting further investigation as possible best global expressions of the sub-theme of "Refugia, relicts".

Sub-theme,    

Exemplar

Forest Places in WA, NSW and Qld warranting further investigation Values Places in WA, NSW and Qld considered but excluded from further investigation in the RFA process Reason for exclusion from further investigation in the RFA process

Refugia,

Relicts

No places identified as warranting further investigation.

Sites with the relict terrestrial mistletoe Nuytsia floribunda in south-west WA.

Swamp sites with the Gondwanan relict turtle Pseudemydura umbrina near Perth, WA.

Sites with the relict Noisy Scrub-bird Atrichornis clamosus near Albany, WA.

Sites with the relict freshwater fish, Lepidogalaxias salamandroides,in south-west WA.

Sites with the relict Trapdoor Spider Moggridgea tingle in south-west WA.

Sites with the relict Water Mite genus Larri in south-west WA.

Associative value and

non-forest area

Associative value and

non-forest area

Associative value

Associative value

Associative value

Associative value

Sub-theme,    

Exemplar

Forest Places in WA, NSW and Qld warranting further investigation Values Places in WA, NSW and Qld considered but excluded from further investigation in the RFA process Reason for exclusion from further investigation in the RFA process

Refugia,

Relicts

No places identified as warranting further investigation.

Sites with the relict Wollemi Pine, Wollemia nobilis, in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

Sites with the relict terrestrial mistletoe Atkinsonia ligustrina in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

Sites with the primitive, relict podocarp Microstrobus fitzgeraldii in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

Sites with the relict Mountain Pygmy Possum Burramys parvus in sub-alpine areas of NSW.

Sites with the relict Rufous Scrub-bird Atrichornis rufescens in north-east NSW.

Sites with high diversities of Onychophorans in north-east NSW and south-east NSW.

Associative value

Associative value

Associative value

Associative value

Part of the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves World Heritage Area, and

associative value

Values already represented in Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves World Heritage Area and

associative value

Sub-theme, Exemplar Forest Places in WA, NSW and Qld warranting further investigation Values Places in WA, NSW and Qld considered but excluded from further investigation in the RFA process Reason for exclusion from further investigation in the RFA process

Refugia,

Relicts

No places identified as warranting further investigation.

Sites with the relict Australian Lungfish Neoceratodus forsteri in the Mary and Burnett Rivers, Qld.

Sites with high diversities of relict invertebrate species with Gondwanan affinities, including the Lamington Plateau, Kroombit Tops National Park and the Blackdown Tableland.

Associative value

Associative value

Sub-theme: Rainforest

Australian rainforests are an outstanding example of ecosystems from which modern biota are derived. These rainforests are exceptionally rich in primitive and relict species, many of which are similar to fossils from Gondwana.

Australian rainforests extend throughout the entire latitudinal range of the continent. They include the monsoonal rainforests of far northern latitudes in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, tropical rainforests of northern areas of Queensland including Cape York, sub-tropical rainforests of south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales, and temperate rainforests of south-east New South Wales, eastern Victoria and Tasmania. They typically occur in the more humid or moist localities in the landscape.

An important feature of Australian rainforests is their discontinuity, scattered distribution and small area. In this, they have been described as resembling an "archipelago of habitats". In most cases, areas of rainforest vegetation are surrounded by other vegetation types, particularly by eucalypt-dominated vegetation.

Although the different rainforest types in Australia vary widely in their constituent species, they are similar in having a dense forest structure with a closed canopy, and a high diversity of species and life forms. They provide important habitat for many endemic and primitive biota. They also exhibit strong affinities at the generic level with surrounding countries that were continuous with the Australian continent at the time of Gondwana.

The Panel noted that expressions of the rainforest sub-theme are found in all three states being considered.

Western Australia

Rainforest in Western Australia is restricted to the Kimberley region, where it is confined to small patches, most of which are in areas close to the coast. Although these rainforest areas are biologically interesting, they are not rich in primitive and relict Gondwanan species. They tend to be dominated by species that are widely distributed in northern Australia, although they also include some fauna groups which show higher levels of speciation. The major biogeographic affinities of the Kimberley rainforests are with the rainforests of south-east Asia, particularly with the monsoon belt of the Malesian region.

As discussed under the sub-theme of passive continental margins, the Kimberley area was considered to be outside Australia's forested areas as defined in the National Forest Policy Statement (see Section 1.3 above). Thus, the Kimberley rainforests were not regarded by the Panel as warranting further investigation under this sub-theme.

New South Wales

There is excellent representation of rainforest in the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves World Heritage Area, in north-east New South Wales. The Panel discussed the importance of this representation and expressed the view that almost all of the surviving rainforest in New South Wales which has high integrity and exists in areas of larger extent has been already included in this World Heritage Area. Furthermore, the reasons for its listing, which include the complement of primitive and relict species with Gondwanan origins, are relevant to this sub-theme.

The Blue Mountains area was discussed in relation to the possible significance of its rainforest vegetation in relation to the sub-theme. Rainforest vegetation in the Blue Mountains occurs as small, isolated patches associated with wetter, sheltered sites. Many are believed to reflect recolonisation of these sites during pluvial periods. The patches tend to be widely distributed, and their representation of rainforest species is generally poor. One rainforest patch contains the only extant population of the Gondwanan relict Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis).

The Panel concluded that that the Blue Mountains are not of major significance in representing the sub-theme of rainforest. The rainforest patch containing the Wollemi Pine was noted, but the Panel considered that it does not warrant further investigation in its own right as an expression of the rainforest sub-theme. The Wollemi Pine is itself important in an international context as a "living fossil". Its significance was considered separately under the sub-theme of refugia and relicts. The Panel also commented that the rainforest patch with the Wollemi Pine is likely to have associative value in contributing to the World Heritage values of the Blue Mountains provided they were shown to be a best global expression of another theme.

Rainforest areas in New South Wales were also discussed by the Panel in relation to the potential significance of their invertebrate values. These included rainforest patches in north-east New South Wales and south-east Queensland that contain important sites of high diversity of ancient species of land nemertines, an ancient form of worm. The rainforest areas, which include sites in the New England National Park, Dorrigo National Park, and Barrington Tops National Park, and on the Lamington Plateau in Queensland, contain up to twenty-five percent of the known species of land nemertines in the world. The Panel considered that these land nemertine sites are already well represented in the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves World Heritage Area.

The significance of sites of rainforest on limestone in the north-east of New South Wales was discussed in relation to their land snail fauna. These rainforest sites have an exceptionally high diversity of land snail species. Sites in part of the Macleay Valley include over 108 species, which represents a significant proportion of Australia's land snail fauna. The Panel considered that land snail fauna values associated with rainforest are represented within the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves World Heritage Area and therefore these land snail sites do not warrant further investigation in relation to the rainforest sub-theme.

The Panel concluded that there are no rainforest areas of sufficient extent and integrity outside existing World Heritage Areas in New South Wales to justify their further investigation as possible best global expressions of the rainforest sub-theme.

Queensland

The international significance of the sub-tropical and tropical rainforests of Queensland has been recognised by the inscription on the World Heritage List of many of the remaining larger rainforest areas of high integrity. These include several areas in south-east Queensland, including Main Range National Park, Mount Barney National Park, Lamington National Park and parts of Border Ranges National Park, all of which are included in the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves World Heritage Area. They also include a large number of sites extending from south of Cooktown to north of Townsville in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, in north-east Queensland. The Panel noted that the reasons for World Heritage listing of these areas include the rich component of primitive species and relict species with Gondwanan affinities in their rainforest biota.

The Panel identified two other significant rainforest areas that it considered warrant further investigation under the sub-theme as possible additions to the Queensland World Heritage areas, including the Bunya Mountains National Park in south-east Queensland, and the McIlwraith Range in the Cape York Peninsula region.

The Bunya Mountains National Park, situated on the Great Divide north-east of Brisbane, contains the largest extant populations of the relict Bunya Pine, Araucaria bidwillii. Bunya Pine is an important Gondwanan species of considerable significance in a biogeographic context. It is also significant in a cultural context in relation to its use by Aboriginal people, particularly as a food source. Bunya Mountains National Park also contains populations of the closely-related Hoop Pine, Araucaria cunninghamii.

The Panel expressed the view that the rainforest values of the area would complement the values of the reserves already included in the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves World Heritage Area. It recommended that the Bunya Mountains National Park area be subject to further investigation as a possible addition to the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves World Heritage Area.

The McIlwraith Range, which forms part of the Great Divide on the eastern side of Cape York Peninsula, includes rainforests with many primitive and relict species. At least five of these species are endemic to the area. The area supports a number of rare species, including the only Australian occurrence of the primitive mistletoe Cecarria obtusifolia. This species is limited otherwise to scattered occurrences in an area extending from the Philippines to the Solomon Islands. The McIlwraith Range rainforests are of high integrity, and the area is regarded as having exceptional natural beauty.

The McIlwraith Range rainforest area is believed to be exceptional among the extant rainforest patches of northern Cape York Peninsula in having been the only site in Cape York where rainforest has persisted through the climatic fluctuations of the Quaternary Period, including several major thermal-pluvial cycles. The area is therefore of likely significance in having acted as an refugial area during these periods of extreme climate change.

The Panel recommended that the McIlwraith Range rainforests be subject to further investigation as a possible addition to the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area.

Table 6 Places in forested areas in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland warranting further investigation as possible best global expressions of the sub-theme of "Rainforest".

Sub-theme,  

Exemplar

Forest Places in WA, NSW and Qld warranting further investigation Values Places in WA, NSW and Qld considered but excluded from further investigation in the RFA process Reason for exclusion from further investigation in the RFA process

Rainforest

Possible addition to the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves WHA:

Bunya Mountains National Park, Qld.

Possible addition to the Wet Tropics of Queensland WHA:

McIlwraith Range rainforest areas, Qld.

Largest extant populations of the Gondwanan relict Araucaria bidwillii.

Primitive and relict rainforest species, including the only Australian occurrence of the primitive mistletoe Cecarria obtusifolia.

Kimberley rainforest areas, WA.

Blue Mountains rainforest site with Wollemia nobilis, NSW.

Rainforest areas with important invertebrate values, NSW.

(including land nemertines, and land snails)

Non-forest area

Associative value

Values already represented in Central Eastern Rainforests Reserves World Heritage Area

Theme: Evolution of landforms, species and ecosystems under conditions of stress

Sub-theme: Scleromorphy

The Australian flora includes outstanding examples of the evolution of a diverse range of scleromorphic characteristics in response to low nutrient soils and a highly variable climate

Scleromorphy is a characteristic of virtually all components of the Australian flora subject to considerable evolutionary change during the Tertiary Period. Whereas the relict element of the flora showed little change during this time by virtue of persisting in refugia or constant environments, the other parts of the flora, the autochthonous element, were subject to great changes in response to the shifting environmental conditions.

Scleromorphy has been linked to conditions of low nutrient soils. Its advent is believed to have occurred at the margins of rainforest in the early Tertiary Period, probably as a response of the flora to gradients of declining soil fertility created by changing climatic conditions at this time, and also to summer water stresses as the climate became drier. The geological stability of the Australian landscape and its exposure to exceptionally long periods of continuous weathering have resulted in continent-wide conditions of low nutrient soils which are unmatched elsewhere in the world. These conditions have resulted in the extraordinary expression of scleromorphy seen in the present-day Australian flora, involving many of the major plant groups, including the families Myrtaceae, Proteaceae, Rutaceae, Epacridaceae, Mimosaceae, Fabaceae and Goodeniaceae.

As the name suggests, scleromorphic species have "hard leaves". More particularly, many are characterised by small, rigid leaves, by short internodes, and by relatively small plant size. Scleromorphy is characteristic of many of the dominant vegetation types in Australia, particularly eucalypt- and acacia-dominated vegetation. It is therefore an important aspect of the heritage values of these vegetation types. It also occurs spectacularly in non-forested areas, both as small patches within mosaics of forested lands, and also as broad areas of heathlands.

Outstanding examples of scleromorphic vegetation occur in several areas and habitat types in all three states being considered by the Panel.

Western Australia

Undoubtedly the greatest richness and diversity of scleromorphy occurs in the south-west of Western Australia. Scleromorphy is best expressed in parts of this region which have experienced cyclic thermal-pluvial shifts. It is likely that these shifts have generated the selective pressures leading to the outstanding expression of diversity in the scleromorphic vegetation of the region. This diversity is at its peak in the "transitional" zone between the forested areas of the extreme south-west and the more continuously arid lands further inland.

Outstanding examples of scleromorphic vegetation may be found in the area that extends from the heathlands north of Perth south-eastwards through the wheat belt to the heathlands and shrublands in the Esperance area, including the Stirling Ranges National Park. Areas which express the transition between sclerophyllous forest and heath vegetation are also found in D'Entrecasteaux National Park.

The Panel noted that while the best global expressions of scleromorphy are likely to occur in Western Australia, they are outside forested areas, typically occurring in the heathlands adjacent to these areas.

New South Wales

The Blue Mountains, near Sydney, were discussed by the Panel in relation to the outstanding expressions of scleromorphic vegetation that occur on the sandstone plateaus and other structures. A combination of wide variations in topography, altitude, aspect, soils and water availability has resulted in an exceptional range of habitats contained within the relatively confined area of the sandstone escarpments. Many of these habitats are dominated by scleromorphic vegetation, resulting in a highly diverse expression of scleromorphy which is characterised by mosaics of heathland and woodland or forest vegetation. Many of the exposed plateaux and escarpment areas of the Blue Mountains support exceptionally high diversities of scleromorphic species within their mosaics of heath and woodland or forest vegetation.

Adaptations amongst the scleromorphic species of the Blue Mountains may be important in illustrating the pre-adaptation of scleromorphic taxa to climates with summer water stress, which emerged and intensified during the Tertiary Period.

The richness, diversity and beauty of the scleromorphic vegetation in the sandstone forests and woodlands of the Blue Mountains are also major components of the aesthetic values of the area. The exceptional beauty of the Blue Mountains, including the famous blue-tinted hues from which the name derives and which have influenced artistic expression over centuries, derive in large part from the exceptional expression of scleromorphy in the region.

While recognising the importance of the expression of scleromorphy in the area, Panel concluded that the Blue Mountains does not warrant further investigation as a globally-significant representation of the sub-theme.

It also noted that the values of the area in relation to the sub-theme of scleromorphy may have important associative value, and could potentially contribute to the World Heritage values of the Blue Mountains if the area were shown to be a best global expression of another theme.

Queensland

Major expressions of scleromorphy are also found in Queensland, on Cape York Peninsula. The coastal region on the eastern side of Cape York Peninsula including Shelburne Bay, Temple Bay, Jardine National Park and Starcke National Park, was identified by the Panel for its outstanding expressions of scleromorphy. The vegetation of this region includes areas of diverse heathland situated immediately adjacent to rainforest vegetation. The Panel noted this unusual juxtaposition and considered that it may have outstanding significance in illustrating the differentiation of scleromorphy from rainforest progenitors under tropical conditions as a direct response to increasing soil infertility. In this process, the scleromorphic vegetation was able to persist as the rainforest retreated, and eventually to differentiate and to spread. The Panel commented that scleromorphic vegetation in Kakadu National Park World Heritage Area may also have some value in terms of illustrating the origins of scleromorphy, although there is only limited expressions of rainforest in the Park.

The Panel considered the dunefields at Cape Flattery, north of Cooktown, as another area of potential significance in relation to the sub-theme of scleromorphy. The extensive dunefields at Cape Flattery support a wide range of vegetation, including areas of scleromorphic vegetation, particularly heath and Melaleuca-dominated vegetation, that grade into rainforest dominated by Araucaria. In this regard, the Cape Flattery area may also be significant in illustrating the origins of scleromorphy. The Panel also expressed the view that the occurrence in a tropical region of the type of arid-zone dunefield found at Cape Flattery is extraordinary in itself, and of likely major significance in a global context.

The Panel concluded that areas of coastal eastern Cape York Peninsula may be significant as best global expressions of scleromorphy, including illustrating its origins at the margins of rainforest under tropical conditions. Therefore they warrant further investigation in relation to this sub-theme.

The Panel was undecided as to whether the areas of coastal eastern Cape York Peninsula would be suitable as possible additions to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, or whether they should be investigated for possible outstanding global significance as separate areas. It considered that any further work concerning the possible World Heritage values of Cape York Peninsula should consider these options.

Table 7 Places in forested areas in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland warranting further investigation as possible best global expressions of the sub-theme of "Scleromorphy".

Sub-theme,      Exemplar Forest Places in WA, NSW and Qld warranting further investigation Values Places in WA, NSW and Qld considered but excluded from further investigation in the RFA process Reason for exclusion from further investigation in the RFA process

Scleromorphy

Best global expression,

or

Possible addition to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area:

Coastal eastern Cape York Peninsula, Qld.

(including:

- Shelburne Bay,

- Temple Bay,

- Jardine National

Park,

- Starcke National

Park,

- Dunefields at

Cape Flattery).

Scleromorphy in tropical vegetation, including illustrating its origins at the margins of rainforest and under tropical conditions.

Sites of scleromorphic vegetation in south-west WA.

Blue Mountains area, NSW.

Best global expression is outside forested areas

Associative value

Sub-theme: Eucalyptus-dominated vegetation

Eucalyptus-dominated vegetation in Australia is an outstanding example on a continental scale of forest and woodland vegetation dominated by a single genus. This vegetation has evolved under stress, including conditions of high climatic variability, nutrient deficiency, and high fire frequency.

The genus Eucalyptus belongs to the Myrtaceae, a family of plants with evolutionary origins associated with the supercontinent Gondwana. Ancestral forms of the eucalypts occurred in the moist rainforests that dominated the Australian continent during the early Tertiary Period. Subsequent evolution of the genus is believed to have been strongly influenced by environmental stress. The eucalypts are an important component of the autochthonous, or more-recently evolved, component of the Australian flora.

The current, continent-wide distribution of Eucalyptus-dominated vegetation in Australia is globally unusual and outstanding. The majority of the world's ecosystems that are similar to eucalypt ecosystems are classified in the Evergreen Sclerophyllous Forests, Scrubs or Woodlands Biome. With the exception of the eucalypts, these ecosystems are confined in their distribution on the western or southern margins of continental land masses. In contrast, eucalypt-dominated ecosystems are widely distributed throughout the Australian continent, and dominate extensive parts of its northern, eastern and southern margins.

Eucalyptus-dominated forests and woodlands are also globally unusual in their distribution across an extremely wide range of habitats, and in the diversity of their growth forms which vary from the tallest hardwoods in the world to stunted, open shrublands. Other aspects of eucalypt vegetation have been described as globally significant, including the characteristic open structure of the canopy, the exceptionally high diversity of understorey species, the wide tolerance of fire, the dependence of most species on hot wildfires for regeneration, and the capacity to thrive on nutrient-poor soils. The genus Eucalyptus has also been described as outstanding in a global context in relation to its wide and rapid radiation, adaptation, hybridisation and continuing evolution.

The Panel discussed several important aspects of the expression of Eucalyptus-dominated vegetation in Australia that would need to be covered in any representation of the sub-theme. Major biogeographic aspects included eucalypt vegetation in temperate regions, in tropical regions, and in the drier parts of the continent, as well as at the interface with rainforest vegetation. Other important aspects concerned the evolutionary history of the eucalypts, their present taxonomic and structural diversity, and the ecology of the communities they dominate.

The Panel noted that a best global representation of Eucalyptus-dominated vegetation in Australia that covered these aspects would necessarily be based on a series of areas. The areas would, together, represent the major types of ecological relationships exhibited by the genus Eucalyptus (sensu lato) including such taxa as Eudesmia, Corymbia and Angophora, the major structural types, and the floristic variation in the genus. The series of areas would constitute an outstanding and globally-significant expression of the sub-theme.

In particular, the Panel agreed on the following listed aspects as desirable, if possible, to be represented in any series of areas that are a best global expression of the sub-theme of Eucalyptus-dominated vegetation:

A. The range of eucalypt-dominated forest vegetation types.

1. The rainforest-eucalypt forest transition (mixed forest);

2. Eucalypt forests with dense, broad-leaved shrub understoreys (wet sclerophyll forest);

3. Eucalypt forests with tall, small-leaved shrub understoreys (shrubby forest);

4. Eucalypt forests with heath understoreys (heathy forest);

5. Eucalypt forest and woodland with perennial grass understoreys (grassy forest);

6. Eucalypt forest and woodland with annual grass understoreys (monsoon forest);

B. The range of eucalypt-dominated non-forest vegetation types.

7. Mallee vegetation (lignotuberous shrubs);

8. Marlock vegetation (non-lignotuberous shrubs);

9. The arid-zone catena of eucalypts;

C. The floristic and taxonomic diversity and complexity of eucalypts.

10. Peaks of richness of the subgenera/genera;

11. Peaks of richness of the major floristic groups of species; (defined by Gill A.M., Belbin L. and Chippendale G.M. Phytogeography of Eucalyptus in Australia. Australian Flora and Fauna Series No 3. Bureau of Flora and Fauna, Canberra, 1985.)

12 the main eucalypt assemblage zones (defined by Gill et al. op.cit. 1985.)

The Panel also agreed that large areas of eucalypt-dominated vegetation in a natural condition should form the components of the series of areas identified as warranting further investigation as a possible best global expression of the sub-theme, both for reasons of integrity and because such areas are most likely to satisfy the World Heritage Criteria related to outstanding natural aesthetic quality. Where choices were available within this constraint, the Panel sought to identify areas for investigation that are richest in rare or threatened species, cover extensive environmental gradients, and satisfy the World Heritage Criteria in other respects.

While the Panel made no recommendations concerning areas for investigation in relation to the sub-theme for non-forest Eucalyptus-dominated vegetation, it noted that such areas would form a substantial part of any series of areas that provide a representative expression of the sub-theme.

In its broadest sense, the sub-theme of "Eucalyptus-dominated vegetation" can be construed as encompassing the greater part of autochthonous element of the Australian flora. The origins of the autochthonous flora has been discussed above and in relation to the sub-theme of sclerophylly. Most of the vegetation types other than eucalypt-dominated vegetation which comprise the autochthonous flora are non-forest vegetation; therefore these have not been considered by the Panel. The Melaleuca-dominated paperbark swamp forests, which are non-eucalypt in composition, represent a significant component of Australia's tropical forest vegetation.

Melaleuca is the third largest plant genus in Australia, after Acacia and Eucalyptus (sensu lato), and probably has an evolutionary history which parallels the eucalypts. Like Eucalyptus, it is believed to have differentiated at the margins of tropical rainforest. Unlike the eucalypts, its evolution included adaptations to swamp conditions. Paperbark (Melaleuca) swamp forests replace eucalypt forests in seasonal tropical areas where prolonged high water tables are present. The Panel also considered Melaleuca-dominated paperbark swamp forests in relation to the sub-theme.

The importance of the faunal component of Eucalyptus-dominated ecosystem was also discussed by the Panel, including its co-evolutionary aspects. Although the vertebrate fauna are reasonably well known, relatively little is known about the extensive invertebrate fauna that characterise these ecosystems, except that they are diverse, important ecologically, and vary widely in distribution both geographically and in relation to host plant species. It is estimated that 15-20% of the known Australian invertebrate fauna is dependent upon Eucalyptus. The Panel considered that a series of sites which provide a representative best global expression of Eucalyptus-dominated vegetation would also capture a significant and representative sample of the fauna of these ecosystems.

Western Australia

The Jarrah, Karri, and Tingle forests were the only eucalypt-dominated forests in Western Australia considered by the Panel to survive in large enough natural areas to be suitable for representing the sub-theme. These forests represent the biogeographically-distinct wet sclerophyll forest and heathy forest in Western Australia. They include tall forests comparable in significance to those in south-eastern Australia. They also include the richest expression of species group g, and represent eucalypt assemblage zones L, M and X (defined by Gill et al. op.cit. 1985).

The Panel identified the following reserves as forming a suitable core area for further investigation as to whether they best represent a distinctive expression of Eucalyptus-dominated forests found in this part of the continent: Shannon National Park, Mt Frankland National Park, Walpole-Nurnolup National Park and D'Entrecasteaux National Park.

The Panel also recommended that an area of forest that would form a connection between Shannon National Park and Mt Frankland National Park should also be considered for further investigation as part of the Western Australian representation of the sub-theme.

New South Wales

There are two major peaks of eucalypt species richness in the eucalypt forests of the continent. Both of these are found in New South Wales. One peak occurs in the sandstone country centred on the Blue Mountains area and extending from the Hawkesbury area to the Shoalhaven area. This area was described as the Blue Mountains "in the broad sense" (sensu lato), in comparison with the sandstone area comprising the reserves centred on the Blue Mountains and described by the Panel as the Blue Mountains "in the narrow sense" (sensu stricto).The other peak occurs in the north-east area of New South Wales (extending into south-east Queensland). All major ecological types of eucalypt forest, except monsoon forest, are well represented within these two areas. As well, the genus Angophora and two of the eucalypt sub-genera, Monocalyptus and Symphyomyrtus, are also most diverse within the forests of the two areas.

Species groups l, m, n, u and v (Gill et al. op.cit.,1985) attain their maximum richness within the forests of north-east New South Wales and south-east Queensland. Species groups q, r and s have their maximum richness in south-east New South Wales (the q and r peaks also extend into East Gippsland). Species group w has its maximum richness in the sandstone country centred on the Blue Mountains, and species group x has its maximum richness in central coastal New South Wales. Species groups o, p and y attain their maximum richness on the inland slopes of the Great Divide, but largely consist of woodland species. Species assemblage zone O is centred on the forests of New South Wales.

Several large areas of natural eucalypt forest in New South Wales were identified by the Panel as appropriate for inclusion as part of a series of areas to represent the sub-theme; these are outlined below.

The Kosciuszko National Park, and the contiguous National Parks in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, together with the larger non-contiguous natural forest areas in south-east New South Wales, provide an outstanding cross-section of natural eucalypt forests which is almost continuous from the inland woodland-forest boundary to the alpine treeline, and then to the coast. Forests in this area are amongst the tallest hardwood forests in the world. They include Alpine Ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis)and Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) which has been documented as the tallest hardwood species in the world. The Panel described this area as "extending from the sea to the alps and inland slopes" and recommended that it warrants further investigation in relation to the sub-theme.

A large section of the natural, aesthetically-outstanding sandstone country centred on the Blue Mountains represents a single large area of natural forest that includes one of the two major peaks of eucalypt diversity. The components of this area include: Goulburn River National Park, Wollemi National Park, Blue Mountains National Park, Yengo National Park, Dharug National Park, Marramarra National Park, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Brisbane Water National Park and Kanangra-Boyd National Park. The Royal National Park was considered to be too small and degraded for inclusion. The Panel commented that the Blue Mountains area, as one of the major peaks of eucalypt diversity in Australia, is an exceptional area in relation to this sub-theme. The Panel recommended that the sandstone National Parks forming the Blue Mountains "in the broader sense" (sensu lato), warrant further investigation in relation to their outstanding contribution as an expression of this sub-theme.

The Panel considered that, to some extent, the eucalypt-related values of north-east New South Wales are represented in the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves World Heritage Area. It noted that this World Heritage Area was designed for rainforest representation, and does not cover the variety of species and forest types in the region.

Fragmentation due to clearing in north-east New South Wales has resulted in a situation where representation of the outstanding catena of eucalypt forest diversity in the region can only be achieved in one extensive and largely-continuous area of natural forest. This area extends almost continuously from sub-alpine forest to the coast and contains populations of more than 80 eucalypt species and a wide range of ecological forest types. The Guy Fawkes Wilderness Area forms the most extensive component of this large natural area, which has been called "Moonee-Bindery".

The Panel recommended that the Moonee-Bindery area be further investigated in relation to the sub-theme. It also noted that, in order to capture the outstanding catena of eucalypt forest diversity in the region, consideration would have to be given to including other smaller reserves, areas of State Forest, and some private land extending for the Warra State Forest in the west to the coastal Moonee Beach Nature Reserve in the east.

The Panel commented that there are no large areas of natural eucalypt forest suitable for representing the sub-theme on the inland slopes of the Great Divide, with the exception of the western parts of the Kosciuszko National Park that fall in this class.

Queensland

The major peak of eucalypt species richness found in north-east New South Wales also extends into south-east Queensland. All eucalypt forest ecological types are represented in Queensland, although grassy forest and monsoon forest constitute most of the eucalypt forest in the state.

The peaks of maximum species richness for species groups l, m, n, u and v (Gill et al. op.cit., 1985) extend into south-east Queensland from north-east New South Wales. Species groups e and f also have their peak richness in south-east Queensland. Species group d, which consists of woodland as well as forest species, has its zone of maximum richness extending down the Great Divide from Cooktown to Brisbane. The eucalypt forests of Queensland almost entirely fall within the species assemblage zones C and D, and the former is largely confined to the monsoonal tropics.

The Panel noted that there is some representation of eucalypt-dominated vegetation in existing World Heritage Areas in Queensland. With the exception of the Fraser Island World Heritage Area, these have been listed for their rainforest values. The Panel also expressed the view that there is some opportunity for all three existing World Heritage Areas to be extended to increase the extent and viability of their coverage of eucalypt forests.

In particular, the Panel identified the Cooloola National Park as appropriate for extending the eucalypt forest values of the Fraser Island World Heritage Area, while also fitting within its major geomorphological theme. It also commented that the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves World Heritage Area would benefit, in relation to both the eucalypt-dominated vegetation sub-theme and the rainforest sub-theme, from some relatively minor additions, including the Bunya Mountains National Park. The Panel noted that these suggested additions would be appropriate to the constraint of large natural areas, within the highly-fragmented south-east Queensland landscape and recommended that they be further investigated in relation to the sub-theme.

The Panel also recommended, in relation to the sub-theme, that the catena of eucalypt communities on the inland slopes of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, and the assemblage of forest communities, demonstrated by both eucalypts and Melaleuca species, on the coastal plains adjacent to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, should both be investigated for possible addition to the World Heritage Area.

In relation to the expression of Melaleuca paperbark forests in other places, the Panel commented that the most extensive areas of this vegetation type occur in western Cape York Peninsula. The western parts of the Peninsula also include the areas of greatest species richness for the genus. The Panel considered that the Melaleuca-dominated forests are already well-represented in Kakadu National Park World Heritage Area, and that the best concentrated example of paperbark swamp forest probably occurs there. The Melaleuca-dominated paperbark forests were not considered further by the Panel in relation to the sub-theme.

The Carnarvon Ranges area was identified by the Panel as the only large natural area of eucalypt forest between south-east Queensland and the wet tropics and monsoonal tropics. The eucalypt forests in the ranges, including the Carnarvon National Park, comprise heathy forest on sandstone and grassy forest on small areas of basalt. The Panel noted that there are many eucalypt species confined to the Carnarvon Ranges area. It recommended that the Carnarvon Ranges area be further investigated as a possible component of a best global representation of the sub-theme. The area is also considered potentially significant for its outstanding representation of the sub-theme of rock art.

The Panel noted the large natural areas of monsoon eucalypt forest that occur on Cape York Peninsula, but considered that the monsoon eucalypt forest values are already well represented in the Kakadu National Park World Heritage Area. The Panel commented that by not identifying Cape York areas in relation to the eucalypt sub-theme, it did not preclude the possibility that areas of Cape York Peninsula, including its eucalypt forests, might be suitable for other future assessments for possible World Heritage Values.

Further assessment of areas to represent the sub-theme

The Panel commented that all of the areas identified in relation to the sub-theme of Eucalyptus-dominated vegetation should be further investigated as possible best expressions of the sub-theme. It also recognised that these areas differ in the degree to which they would individually satisfy the World Heritage Criteria.

Australia has two areas currently on the World Heritage List that the Panel believes would have been selected as a high priority through the process outlined in this report. These are the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and the Kakadu National Park World Heritage Area. The former contains the outstanding expressions of mixed forest, and the latter contains the outstanding expressions of monsoon forest, and is also a centre of richness for both eucalypt species assemblages and taxonomic groups.

Not withstanding the significance of all of the places discussed above in relation to the sub-theme, two of these areas were regarded by the Panel as equivalent to the two listed World Heritage areas in terms of their importance in representing the sub-theme of Eucalyptus-dominated vegetation.

One is the area identified in parts of south-east New South Wales, eastern Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, centred on Kosciuszko National Park and the Alpine National Park of Victoria and "extending from the sea to the alps and inland slopes". The Panel noted that the significance of this area rests upon the inclusion of substantial areas from New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory.

The other is the sandstone area identified in central New South Wales, comprising the reserves centred on the Blue Mountains and described by the Panel as the Blue Mountains "in the narrow sense" (sensu stricto).

The Panel also considered that there are excellent additional reasons for further assessment of the international significance of the larger sandstone area centred on the Blue Mountains, and described as the Blue Mountains "in the broader sense" (sensu lato), in relation to the expression of sub-themes of passive continental margins, refugia and relicts, and scleromorphy.

The Panel commented that the case for including the Moonee-Bindery area in north-east New South Wales and the Carnarvon Ranges area in Queensland amongst the series of areas to represent the eucalypt sub-theme needs to be further assessed. The Carnarvon Ranges area has values related to other sub-themes.

The Panel considered that the most marginal area identified for further investigation is the eucalypt forest area in the south-west of Western Australia. The broad vegetation types found in this area are likely to be well-represented amongst the other areas identified under this sub-theme. It also felt that this forested area would, on a stand-alone basis, be unlikely to meet the relevant requirements under the World Heritage Criteria and Operational Guidelines.

Despite this, the Panel commented that the contribution of the forests in the south-west of Western Australia as one of a series of areas to represent the sub-theme would still be substantial. The forests in the south-west of Western Australia are distinct in their species composition from those of the eastern parts of the continent and from tropical areas. The Karri forests, dominated by Eucalyptus diversicolor, are also amongst the tallest hardwood forests in the world. They represent the western equivalent of the Eucalyptus regnans-dominated forests on the eastern margins of the continent. The Panel considered that the non-forested heath and woodland reserves to the south-west forested area would add further strength to a case for possible international significance of this region by contributing outstanding values related to the sub-theme of scleromorphy.

Table 8 Places in forested areas in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland warranting further investigation as possible best global expressions of the sub-theme of "Eucalyptus-dominated vegetation".

Sub-theme,

Exemplar

Forest Places in WA, NSW and Qld warranting further investigation

Values

Places in WA, NSW and Qld considered but excluded from further investigation in the RFA process

Reason for exclusion from further investigation in the RFA process

Eucalyptus-dominated vegetation

Best global expression based on a series of areas:

Specified south-west National Parks and associated areas, WA.

The Moonee-Bindery area, including Guy Fawkes Wilderness Area, north-east NSW.

Specified National Parks in the sandstone area centred on the Blue Mountains (sensu lato) NSW.

Natural forest areas extending from the sea to the alps and inland slopes in south-east NSW

(also eastern Victoria and ACT).

Eucalypt values:

- wet sclerophyll

forest in WA,

- heathy forest,

- species group g,

- and

assemblage zones

L, M, and X.

Eucalypt values:

- major forest

types,

- major species

groups l, m, n,

u and v, and

- assemblage

zone O.

Eucalypt values:

- major forest

types,

- major species

groups w and x,

and

- assemblage

zone O.

Eucalypt values:

- major forest

types,

- major species

groups q, r, s,

o, p and y,

and

- assemblage

zone O.

Sub-theme,

Exemplar

Forest Places in WA, NSW and Qld warranting further investigation

Values

Places in WA, NSW and Qld considered but excluded from further investigation in the RFA process

Reason for exclusion from further investigation in the RFA process

Eucalyptus-dominated vegetation

Best global expression based on a series of areas:

Carnarvon Ranges (including Carnarvon National Park), Qld.

Possible addition to the Wet Tropics WHA:

Eucalypt forest areas on the inland slopes, and eucalypt and Melaleuca dominated areas on the adjacent coastal plains.

Possible addition to the Fraser Island WHA:

Cooloola National Park, Qld.

Possible addition to the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves WHA:

Eucalypt-dominated areas including Bunya Mountains National Park, Qld.

Eucalypt values:

- major forest

types,

- major species

group d, and

- assemblage

zones C and D.

Eucalypt values:

- major forest

types,

- major species

group d, and

- assemblage

zones C and D.

Eucalypt values:

- major forest

types,

- major species

groups d, e, f, l,

m, n, u, and v,

and

- assemblage

zone D.

Eucalypt values:

- major forest

types,

- major species

groups d, e, f, l,

m, n, u, and v,

and

- assemblage

zone D.

Cape York Peninsula, Qld.

(monsoon eucalypt forest)

Values already represented in Kakadu National Park World Heritage Area.

Theme: Climate change and its impacts

Sub-theme: Records of past climates

Australia has outstanding and globally significant records of past climates, including those preserved in the sediments of a number of its lake systems.

Climatic changes have had a profound effect on both the physical and biological features of Australian environments. Palaeoclimates in Australia, associated with Gondwana, were warm and humid, reflecting sub-tropical conditions at polar latitudes during the Cretaceous Period (136 to 65 million years before present). Major shifts in climate began in the Tertiary Period (65 to 2 million years before present). These were particularly associated with the breakup of Gondwana, and the establishment of circumpolar currents with the separation of the continents from Antarctica. Following the separation of Australia from Antarctica, the Oligocene Epoch (38 to 26 million years before present) recorded cooling at high latitudes. Warm, humid environments returned and persisted through the Miocene Epoch (26 to 5 million years before present). Progressive cooling through the Pliocene (5 to 2 million years before present) was associated with increased aridity and amplified seasonality culminating in cyclic episodes of Ice Age aridity in early Quaternary time (1 million years ago) continuing to the present day.

In this context, four separate phases of climatic change provide a framework within which to understand and evaluate records of past climates.

  • The earliest timescale is associated with the Mesozoic Era, particularly the Cretaceous Period. Mesozoic palaeoclimates, reflected in the long term records of Gondwana, were described as high latitude, warm sub-tropical climates.
  • The second timescale is associated with the early and middle Tertiary Period. Climates of this period were generally warm and wet.
  • The third timescale is associated with the late Tertiary Period. Climates at this time were described as transitional, and include phases of cooling with onset of more arid environments.
  • The fourth timescale is associated with the Quaternary Period. Quaternary climates were described as variable with increasingly frequent cycles of aridity.

Expressions of the sub-theme of records of past climates were identified by the Panel in all three states.

Western Australia

The south-west region of Western Australia includes important records of Mesozoic climates preserved in its geomorphological remnants of ancient landscapes. As discussed by the Panel in relation to the sub-themes of passive continental margins, palaeoplains and palaeo-drainage systems, the region extending from Norseman in the east to near Collie and Manjimup in the west includes outstanding structures reflecting Gondwanan-age landscapes. These include the palaeo-channel remnants of streams that rose in Antarctica, and the palaeoplain formations, including extensive laterites and bauxites, formed at polar latitudes. The salt lakes of the palaeodrainage lines near Lefroy also provide important records of the transition from the wet rainforest environments of the Cretaceous Period to the arid landscapes that prevail in these regions today.

The Panel commented that the stability of the Australian continent has enabled the preservation of ancient palaeo-climatic elements in the south-west region of Western Australia with a degree of clarity rarely achieved elsewhere in the world. It noted that these sites are largely outside forested areas. They were not considered further by the Panel.

Other examples of past climates identified by the Panel in Western Australia included important records of fluvial geomorphic histories associated with the Quaternary Period. In particular, the dating of dune systems in the Great Sandy Desert, and records from lake sediments from the Gregory Salt Lakes were regarded as of potential significance in a global context. These are outside forested areas and were not considered further by the Panel.

The Panel also noted the records of Quaternary climates contained in the fossil deposits of the Margaret River Caves. These sites were also discussed by the Panel in relation to the fossils sub-theme. The Margaret River Cave sites are important in providing evidence of the unusual stability of Quaternary climates in this south-west region of Western Australia, particularly associated with glacial periods. While acknowledging the significance of these sites in relation to understanding past climate changes, the Panel considered that the Margaret River Caves are not amongst the best of their type in the world in relation to the sub-theme.

The Panel also commented that the Margaret River Cave sites may have associative value in contributing to the heritage values of a place if it is identified as a possible best global expression of another theme.

New South Wales

Lake George, in south-east New South Wales, includes an outstanding palaeoclimatic record in its sediments accumulated over extremely long periods. Studies of fossil pollen and soil-sediment studies of the Lake George sediments have provided records of past climates and vegetation change that extend through the entire Quaternary Period to the Late Tertiary Period (3-4 million years). These are the longest pollen records available in Australia.

The Panel expressed the view that Lake George may be amongst the best in the world in terms of its records of past climates. The Lake George area is associated with woodland vegetation and was classified as outside forested areas. It was therefore not considered further by the Panel.

Other records of past climates from New South Wales places considered by the Panel included the fossil deposits of the Wellington Caves and the Wombeyan Caves. These records were regarded as important, but not likely to be of global significance.

The Panel also discussed the palaeohydrologic records of the streams and lakes in the Murray Basin, including those associated with the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Area. It considered that these are extremely important. These sites are all outside forested areas, and were not considered further by the Panel.

Queensland

The volcanic crater lakes of the Atherton region include outstanding records of past Quaternary climates in Australia. These Atherton crater lakes were also discussed in detail by the Panel in relation to their fossil records; the discussion is reported in the section dealing with the fossil sub-theme.

The Panel expressed the view that the five major crater lakes on the Atherton Tablelands, including Lake Barrine, Lake Eacham, Lynch's Crater, Bromfield Swamp and Strenekoff's Crater, provide some of the best palaeoclimatic records of their type in the world. Studies of Lynch's Crater, Bromfield Swamp and Strenekoff's Crater combine such detail and continuity as is rarely found elsewhere. High quality, fine resolution records from Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham are also important in complementing the longer records from Lynch's Crater and Strenekoff's Crater.

Two of the crater lakes, Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham, are currently included in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, and Strenekoff's Crater may be partly included with the World Heritage area. Lake Barrine is forested. Lake Eacham, Lynch's Crater, Bromfield Swamp and Strenekoff's Crater are all within areas that were previously forested but have now had their adjacent lands cleared.

The Panel noted the likely international significance of the Atherton Crater Lakes in representing this sub-theme. It commented that the major Atherton Crater lakes that are currently not part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, including Lynch's Crater, Bromfield's Swamp and Strenekoff's Crater, may require consideration at some future time as possible additions to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area in relation to their representation of the sub-theme of past climates. The Panel noted that the Atherton Crater Lakes are outside forested areas, and therefore do not warrant further assessment in the RFA process.

The Panel also discussed the extensive siliceous dunefields at Cape Flattery in relation to the sub-theme of climate change. This type of dunefield is a characteristic geomorphological feature of the arid zone. The occurrence of arid-zone dune systems in a humid tropical area is extremely rare. Recent work has demonstrated the long-term persistence of the dunefield in the Cape Flattery area, extending over more than three hundred thousand years. The dunefield

may reflect past rather than present climatic conditions, and therefore constitute a record of past climates.

The Panel considered that the Cape Flattery dunefields did not warrant further investigation in relation to this sub-theme. It noted that the dunefield may have associative value in contributing to the heritage values of a place if it is identified as a possible best global expression of another theme.

Table 9 Places in forested areas in Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland warranting further investigation as possible best global expressions of the sub-theme of "Records of past climates".

Sub-theme,

Exemplar

Forest Places in WA, NSW and Qld warranting further investigation

Values

Places in WA, NSW and Qld considered but excluded from further investigation in the RFA process

Reason for exclusion from further investigation in the RFA process

Records of past climates

No places identified as warranting further investigation.

South-west area, WA.

(from Norseman in the east to near Collie and Manjimup in the west).

Margaret River Caves, WA.

Lake George, NSW.

Dunefields at Cape Flattery, Qld.

Atherton Crater Lakes, Qld.

(Lake Barrine, Lake Eacham)

Atherton Crater Lakes, Qld.

(Lynch's Crater, Strenekoff's Crater, Bromfield's Swamp).

Non-forest area

Associative value

Non-forest area

Associative value

Part of Wet Tropics World Heritage Area

Non-forest area

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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