Tasmanian Temperate Rain Forests

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Aerial view of Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Temperate Rainforest, West Tasmania, Australia.
© WWF-Canon / Edward PARKER

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 2 terrestrial ecoregions: Tasmanian Central Highland forests; and Tasmanian temperate rain forests.

The temperate rain forests of Tasmania are extraordinarily complex and contain relict species from the time when the island was part of the supercontinent Gondwana.

Along with similar forests in southeastern Australia, they form one of the most important refuges for wildlife in Australia. The Tasmanian Central Highland Forests ecoregion is unique because there is no clearly defined tree line.

The Tasmanian temperate rain forests are unusual because vines, orchids, and bromeliads are rare, yet mosses and lichens are abundant. A large portion of cool temperate rain forest is protected as national parkland within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Site.
Size:
49,967 sq. km (19,292 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests

Geographic Location:
Tasmania - an island off southeastern Australia

Conservation Status:
Vulnerable

Local Species
There are over 800 plant species, including many endemic genera and species in the alpine flora. 500 year-old Nothofagus, or myrtle-beech, trees can be seen here, in addition to over 600 species of lichen that help prevent soil erosion in arid areas.

Endemic mammals include the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), Eastern quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus), and the presumed extinct thylacene or marsupial wolf (Ornithorhynchus anatinus). There are also many other mammal species; among these are short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus), swamp antechinus (Antechinus minimus), Southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus), Tasmanian pademelon (Thylogale billardierii), and the last remaining populations of the once widely distributed Tasmanian bettong (Bettongia gaimardi).

The island is home to 3 endemic bird species: yellow wattlebird (Anthochaera paradoxa), black-headed honeyeater (Melithreptus affinis), and forty-spotted pardalote (Pardalotus quadragintus).

Other birds found here include the wide-ranging Australian species, such as sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita), rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus), azure kingfisher (Alcedo azurea), and striated fieldwren (Calamanthus fuliginosus).

The genus Niveoscincus to which the ocellated skink (N. ocellatus) and a number of its relatives belong, is largely restricted to this island. Other reptiles include white-lipped snake (Drysdalia coronoides), black tiger snake (Notechis ater), and the White's skink (Egernia whitii). A species of giant freshwater crayfish (Astacopsis gouldi) is also found in this ecoregion.
 / ©: WWF / KLEIN & HUBERT
Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus laniurus), Australia.
© WWF / KLEIN & HUBERT

Featured Species

The Tasmanian giant freshwater crayfish (Astacopsis gouldi) is the largest freshwater invertebrate in the world. They have a dorso-ventrally flattened body with powerfully developed pinchers on their first set of walking legs. Their abdominal legs are longer, adapted for swimming. Females also attach their eggs to these legs. They eat leaves, fish and other meat including other lobsters. Females only breed every 2 years. They mate and spawn in the autumn and the eggs will hatch the next summer. A male can maintain a harem of several females.

Individuals of over 5 kg in weight and over 80 cm long have been known in the past, but now, even individuals over 2 kg are rare.

A. gouldi is very long-lived – almost 40 years. Unusually it is able to regrow lost limbs. Their blood is clear, turning blue on contact with oxygen. Their main predators are humans, platypus, river blackfish and water rats.

The species in only found in Tasmania, and is listed as a vulnerable species due to habitat loss and over fishing. It is also severely threatened by siltation and de-snagging of streams as decaying wood forms a favorite part of its diet.

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Threats
Threats include logging, plantation forestry and introduced species. Fire poses a major threat to Huon and King William pines, possibly contributing to localized extinctions of these plants. Delicate alpine vegetation is also susceptible to trampling from recreational users and a recently discovered cold-tolerant species of Phytophthora, a root-rotting pathogen. Climatic warming also poses a serious threat to alpine ecosystems.
WWF’s work
An 18-month campaign was launched by WWF-Australia - including the release of the groundbreaking Blueprint for the Forest Industry and Vegetation Management in Tasmania in July 2004. This offered a solution to the key environmental problems facing Tasmania while still allowing for a vibrant forest industry. This incredibly successful campaign brought together Australia's best scientists and economists to determine the best way forward for both the landscapes and people of Tasmania.

WWF's campaign involved working with local communities and industry partners in the region to promote realistic solutions to the threat of logging in the Tarkine and taking solutions to political and industry leaders in Tasmania and nationally.

WWF identified land clearing as the greatest threat to biodiversity in Tasmania and pushed for a reduction in broadscale clearing of vegetation in the state.

Whilst an end to logging in the Tarkine has been secured, WWF's work to reduce land clearing in Tasmania continues.

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