Wednesday, March 10, 2021

An Introduction to Australia

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Mainland Australia, with an area of 4. million square miles, is the largest island and the smallest continent on Earth. It stretches some 00 miles from its most northern to its most southern point, and about 500 miles from east to west.

In area, Australia is the sixth largest nation after Russia, Canada, China, the United States of America and Brazil. Its population, however, is relatively small (now estimated at just over million). Australias average elevation is 1100 ft, the lowest of all the continents, and its highest point, Mount Kosciuszko, is only 6400ft. What its landforms lack in height they more than compensate for in variety. The giant monolith Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the striking beehive mountains of Purnululu (the Bungle Bungles) in Western Australia attract visitors from many parts of the world

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Australia's federal government and the governments of the six States and two self-governing Territories share the responsibilities of governing such a vast land area.

European settlement began in New South Wales in 1788, at Sydney, the nations largest city and host of the 000 Olympic games. Sydneys Harbour Bridge and Opera House are national icons, and its airport is the countrys major international gateway.

Victoria is the smallest of the mainland States but the second most populous and the most densely populated. Its capital, Melbourne, Australias second largest city, hosted the Olympic Games in 156. Victorians enthusiasm for sport is legendary and the nation stops each November for the Melbourne Cup, Australias premier horse race.Queensland stretches from the tropical rain forests of Cape York into the temperate zone. Its northeastern coastline is fringed by the Great Barrier Reef. The capital of Queensland is Brisbane. Three international airports, in Brisbane, Cairns and Townsville, service visitors from overseas.South Australia was established by a private Colonization Commission and received no convicts. The Adelaide Festival, held in the capital every two years, is an international cultural event.

Western Australia is about the size of Western Europe. Almost three-quarters of the States population of 1.85 million live in its capital, Perth.

Separated from the continent by the waters of Bass Strait, Tasmania and its many companion islands form the smallest Australian State. Hobart, the capital, is the destination for the nations premier blue water sailing classic, the annual Sydney-Hobart yacht race.

The Northern Territory has more than twice the land area of France but only a population of less than 00 000. Darwin is the capital and Alice Springs the principal inland town. The Territory contains the Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu national parks.

The Australian Capital Territory was established within New South Wales in 111 as the site for the national capital, Canberra. It is home to a number of national institutions including the federal Parliament, the National Library, the National Gallery of Australia, the High Court and the Australian War Memorial.

Land area and population by States and Territories

Area in km Population Capital

New South Wales 800 64 6.40 m Sydney (. m)

Victoria 7 416 4.70 m Melbourne (.7 m)

Queensland 1 70 648 .50 m Brisbane (1.57 m)

South Australia 8 48 1.50 m Adelaide (1.0 m)

Western Australia 5 875 1.85 m Perth (1.4 m)

Tasmania 68 401 0.47 m Hobart (0.1 m)

Northern Territory 1 4 1 0.1 m Darwin (0.0 m)

Australian Capital Territory 41 0.1 m Canberra (0.1 m)

Australia 7 6 04 18.m

Source Australian Bureau of Statistics (figures as at 1 March 1)

The Australian landscape is highly distinctivevast stony and sandy deserts and tablelands in the west and the center, sweeping plateaus and plains flanking narrow coastal slopes to the east. The coastal areas feature broad sandy beaches and lush vegetation backed by a great variety of landforms, ranging from the steep cliffs of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and the tall, graceful, eroded volcanic plugs of the Glasshouse Mountains north of Brisbane, to flat plains on the southern coast west of Adelaide.

The Murray and Darling Rivers, the longest river system in Australia, form the Murray-Darling Basin covering more than one million square kilometers or 14 per cent of the mainland area. Lake Eyre, a great salt lake more than 000 square kilometers in area near the center of the continental landmass, is dry for lengthy periods.

Much of the country, about 70 per cent, is arid or semi-arid, and a large part of the center is unsuitable for settlement. Eleven principal deserts make up some 0 per cent of the mainland area. More than one-third of the continent is virtually desert owing to its low rainfall.

The national average annual rainfall of 465 mm varies greatly year by year, and is distributed unevenly around the continent. The driest area is the Lake Eyre drainage basin, which averages less than 15 mm annually. The wettest regions are in the tropical northeast and in the southwest of Tasmania.

However, Australia does have well-watered fertile areas close to the coast, where the bulk of the population is settled. Here Australians experience a range of climates from wet and humid tropical conditions in the far north, through warm and temperate on the central east and west coasts, to cooler conditions in the southern coasts and Tasmania. All parts of Australia enjoy warm summers and relatively mild winters, and it seldom snows in or near the large centers of population.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Australia was at Cloncurry, in the northeastern inland, which registered 5°C in 188, while the coldest was -°C at Charlotte Pass, in the snowfields near Mount Kosciuszko, in 14.

A unique environment

When the 18th century English naturalist Joseph Banks first stepped ashore at Botany Bay, he would have felt the thrill of strangeness that succeeding generations have experienced in their first encounter with the Australian bush.

Australia is a land unlike any other. The uniqueness of its animals, plants and landscapes are consequences of a vast, slow accident of geology.

Over the past 45 million years, this old, thick, and very flat continental plate has inched away from Antarctica towards the equator. This journey isolated Australian life forms from other parts of the world and presented them with particular challenges.

Typical Australian landscapes are very old. Soluble nutrients have leached from the surface in many areas, making soils less fertile. Some plant communities may have accelerated this process to reduce competition.

Australia often presents a patchwork of different plant alliances growing side by side, specialized to survive on different types of mother rock and solar aspect. As they evolved, these specialized plant communities provided opportunities for new species of animals to evolve.

Did you know?

Of the 18 000 species of flowering plants found in Australia, 15 000 are found nowhere else in the world. Of the 5 species of mammals (including marsupials) 50 are unique to Australia. About 710 of the 800 Australian reptiles are found nowhere else, and 80 to 0 per cent of the insects and arachnids are unique.

Small relic communities of trees and ferns from the dinosaur era can still be found tucked away in damp, sheltered gullies in the Centre. The previously thought extinct wollemus pine was rediscovered in the Blue Mountains east of Sydney in 14

Australias weather is another driver of evolution.

As the continent moved north, cool moist areas became warmer and drier. The Red Centre now lies in the latitudes where the great deserts of the world occur.

The flat terrain and the El NiƱo weather system of the Pacific have amplified the effects of the slow drift into the arid zone. Much of Australia lacks reliable annual rainfall. In many areas droughts can

Last for years.

Surviving in Australia has meant enduring tough times, rather than expanding rapidly during favorable conditions. So the typical Australian ecosystem often has less total biomass and more species than ecosystems on other continents.

Tough conditions caused ecological systems to collapse on a large scale. Then landscapes were recolonised through the evolution of a small number of surviving plant families.

Eucalypt trees belong to the genus Myrtaceae. Over half the species of Myrtaceae in the world are found in Australia, where they filled ecological niches that belong to other plant families on other continents.

The need to be able to survive tough times has favored animals with lower metabolic ratesreptiles and marsupials. The fossil record suggests that placental mammals may have existed in Australia but failed to survive.

The arrival of humans

Humans arrived on the Australian continent more than 60 000 years ago.

Before people arrived, large marsupials and flightless birdsmegafaunabrowsed in forests and savanna grasslands that contained many fire-sensitive species. Some think that a recent ice age erased the big animals and their habitats.

Top predators in the megafauna era included a goanna-like lizard feet long, a very large python and a lion-like marsupial.

The nutrients in these ecosystems were quickly recycled through the guts of grazing animals. This builds up soils that can retain moisture and produce recycled rain. This may explain why the Centre was much lusher until recent times.Some think that a recent ice age erased the big marsupials and their habitats. However, according to Dr Tim Flannery, the Director of the South Australia Museum, the early hunters took out the big animals. The forests and savannas they ate became overgrown. Then widespread fires devastated these plant communities and fire-thriving species like eucalypts replaced them.There is some evidence that Aboriginal peoples burned a patchwork pattern in the fire-thriving bush to create habitat for different kinds of animals. But whatever the roles of early hunters in altering the ecosystems they entered, there is no doubt traditional Indigenous societies did develop a sustainable equilibrium with the country where they lived.

Conserving the natural heritage

In recent years, more attention has been given to using traditional methods to maintain the habitat for native animals.

Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta national parks in the Northern Territory and Booderee National Park in the Jervis Bay Territory south of Sydney are jointly managed with their Aboriginal owners.

Since the early 10s, ecosystem-based regional planning frameworks have been developed. This work seeks to ensure that the full range of ecosystems is taken into account in establishing protected areas to conserve biodiversity.

Indigenous people and private landowners are involved in this national effort.The total area under protection has grown rapidly, and a number of national parks have been declared, primarily to protect endangered species.This contrasts with the former policy of making parks out of areas considered useless for grazing, agriculture or forestry.Problems with algal bloom in river systems and rising salinity in irrigated land have prompted debate about sustainable agriculture. Coastal development has caused concerns about environmental degradation.

Australians concern about environmental issues is real and effective. In cities recycling is well established and household solid waste is being reduced

· Australia has about 5800 land and marine areas under protection.

· When Australian yachtsman Ian Kiernan saw garbage on the oceans he acted. He started the Clean Up Australia movement, which has gone global, changing behavior around the world.

Climate change

Australia has long recognized that climate change is a global phenomenon with potentially adverse implications for the environment. In particular, Australia is concerned about the impact on the Small Island states in the Indian and Pacific oceans, as well as the impact of Australias natural environment and economy.

With the adoption of the Kyoto protocol in December 17, Australia, along with other developed countries agreed to limit future greenhouse gas emissions. As part of this, the Australian Government has allocated almost $1 billion in funding to reduce emissions in areas such as energy production, transport, (Already today all of the buses and taxicabs in Sydney are fueled by natural gas), land use and forests through the development of new technologies and new practices. This builds on existing approaches that encourage greater energy efficiency, along with product reuse and recycling.

Australias position at ongoing international climate change negotiations is to ensure that the Kyoto protocol is effectively implemented in a way that encourages all countries to reduce emissions. This important environmental goal will be best achieved by minimizing the economic costs of emission reduction.

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