Australia is one of the 17 “mega diverse” countries of the world. This is based on the total number of species and on the number of endemic species; that is, the number of species that only occur here.
Within Australia, southwest Australia is the most biologically rich part of the continent and is internationally recognised as a “biodiversity hotspot”. Biodiversity hotspots are areas where exceptional species diversity, with exceptional levels of habitat loss.
Southwest Australia’s high diversity might seem surprising when you consider the ancient nutrient depleted soils and variable rainfall. But these conditions are in fact among the driving forces that have resulted in about 10,000 distinct plant and animal species that inhabit southwest Australia. One third of Australia’s flowering plants can be found here with half of these found nowhere else in the world and about 14% yet to be scientifically described. In fact plant species are probably being lost before they are even officially recognised by botanists.
The animals of southwest Australia are no less distinctive. There are frogs that live underground and Malleefowl that build enormous compost heaps to incubate their eggs. The tiny honey possum is adapted for feeding entirely on nectar and pollen.
While the loss of habitats and species in southwest Australia has been high, it is also home to the largest and most intact Mediterranean habitat remaining in the world today - the Great Western Woodlands.
Follow the links for more on:
Go to Achieving the vision for descriptions of areas along Gondwana Link and the work that is being undertaken.