Queensland Tropical Forests

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Fan palms in tropical rainforest, Cape Tribulation National Park part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
© WWF-Canon / Michle D. PRAZ

About the Area

Australia has a small and scattered area of tropical rainforest, composed of what is believed to be residual fragments of the forests that once covered most of Australia and Antarctica, approximately 15 million years ago.

The region’s rainforests contain elements representative of tropical, subtropical, temperate, and monsoon forest types and occur across a diverse range of geologies, altitudes, and evolutionary histories. The result is a spectrum of plant communities which are floristically and structurally the most diverse in Australia.

These forests are of particular interest for their southern location and the high degree of endemism of their plant (many with ancient lineages) and animal species. High concentrations of endemic monotypic genera and primitive plant families reflect the refugium status of many parts of the ecoregion.

Mean annual rainfall ranges from 1,200 mm to over 8,000 mm.
Size:
32,700 sq. km (12,626 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Northeastern Australia

Conservation Status:
Vulnerable

Local Species
Queensland’s tropical rainforests have very high levels of endemism and are significant in retaining genetic material over the widest evolutionary time span. There are over 4,700 species of vascular plants, representing 1,180 genera and 210 families. More than 700 species of rare or threatened plants and animals can be found here.

Among the endemic marsupials are Bennett's tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus bennettianus), Lummholz's tree kangaroo (D. lumholtzi), and the Proserpine rock wallaby (Petrogale persephone).

More widespread species include the agile wallaby (Macropus agilis), Eastern grey kangaroo (M. giganteus), red-legged pademelon (Thylogale stigmatica), and the swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolor).

A few of the bat species, some of which have wider Australasian ranges, are the rare tube-nosed insect bat (Murina florium), and coastal sheathtail bat (Taphozous australis).

Bird species include cassowary (Casuarius casuarius), red-backed fairy wren (Malurus melanocephalus), blue-winged kookabura (Dacelo leachii), forest kingfisher (Todiramphus macleayii), pale-headed rosella (Platycercus adscitus), Australian king parrot (Alisterus scapularis), barred cuckoo shrike (Coracina lineata), yellow honeyeater (Lichenostomus flavus), and the rare golden bowerbird (Prionodura newtoniana).

Featured species

The golden bowerbird is one of 12 bird species endemic to the wet tropics region.

The mature male bird is a golden-olive brown colour, with golden yellow underparts, crown and nape and an unusual feather structure that refracts light to produce pure white highlights on the plumage. The female is olive-brown with ash-grey below.

It is the world’s smallest bowerbird, but it is able to build the largest of all bowers. The male golden bowerbird constructs a maypole-type structure to attract females which may as high as 3 m. Rival males may steal higher valued or unusual decorations from each others’ bowers. Females are particularly discriminative – many will only select the male with the most attractive bower. The golden bowerbird eats fruit most of the time, but also beetles and cicadas.


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Threats
Deforestation has led to habitat fragmentation and shrinking populations of numerous species, including spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus, a marsupial carnivore), cassowary (Casuarius casuarius), and ringtail possum (Hemibelideus lemuroides).

Introduced species also pose a serious threat to many native species. Apart from the fragmentation and isolation of rainforest patches resulting from broad scale agricultural land uses, there is also the impact of internal fragmentation of the main rainforest blocks. Stock-grazing, mining, feral animals, invasive plants, and tourism combine to increase pressure on the natural resources in this ecoregion.
WWF’s work
WWF-Australia is working to conserve Australia’s native vegetation for future generations. Species conservation lies at the heart of all WWF's work throughout Australia. WWF is addressing these major threats to species survival in Australia through broad-ranging campaigns and programmes.

WWF works directly with governments to ensure improved policy on species conservation, and its on-the-ground turtle conservation and shorebirds programmes provide a coordinated, national approach to reversing population decline throughout Australia. WWF’s Threatened Species Network (TSN) partnership with the Australian Government's Natural Heritage Trust also equips communities to preserve and protect at-risk species.

In the future, WWF-Australia will continue to analyze the effectiveness of long-standing species recovery plans and work with scientists to develop new models for recovery.

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