Distributions and biodiversity of the terrestrial vertebrates of Australia's Wet Tropics: a review of current knowledge

Williams, S. E., Pearson, R. G., and Walsh, P.J. (1996) Distributions and biodiversity of the terrestrial vertebrates of Australia's Wet Tropics: a review of current knowledge. Pacific Conservation Biology, 2. pp. 327-362.

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Abstract

This paper presents a review and collation of the current knowledge on vertebrate distributions and patterns of diversity within the Wet Tropics biogeographic region. Data are collated from a large range of published and unpublished sources. A summary of broad diversity patterns is presented and the collated distributional data are included. The data contained in this paper will be used as the basis for analyses on the determinants of diversity and assemblage composition in the Wet Tropics, as a means of receiving further feedback on distributional data and as baseline information to guide management, conservation, and future research on vertebrates within the Wet Tropics.

The highest species diversity of vertebrates within the Wet Tropics is found in sclerophyll habitats (approximately 388 species). Rainforest is considerably less species-rich with about 259 vertebrate species; however, regional endemisim is much higher in rainforest (25%) than in the combined sclerophyll habitats (4%). The Atherton Uplands are identified as being the most species rich area within the Wet Tropics, with species richness declining both to the north and south of these central uplands. Although there is no consistent latitudinal or altitudinal cline in diversity between taxonomic groups, there is a consistent turnover in the assemblage composition of vertebrates, both altitudinally and latitudinally. These patterns are consistent in all major terrestrial vertebrate taxa.

The importance of the Wet Tropics region is emphasized by the identification of 143 species of terrestrial vertebrates (23% of the total vertebrates fauna of the region) whicher are very important species for biological conservation; that is, those species or sub-species which are endemic to the region and/or have a recognized rare and threatened status.

Several areas are identified as being poorly known due to insufficient sampling effort, including the Finnegan Uplands, Thornton Uplands, Malbon-Thompson Range and the Lee Uplands. The latter two zones present the most significant gaps in knowledge, as they have been very poorly sampled and are important in the interpretation of biogeographic and evolutionary patterns within the region. Probably the most significant ecological gradient in need of detailed examination is altitude, because of the significant effect it has on assemblage composition in all subsets of the terrestrial vertebrate fauna.

Item ID: 1668
Item Type: Article (UNSPECIFIED)
Keywords: biodiversity, Wet Tropics, vertebrates, rainforest, distributions
ISSN: 1038-2097
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2007
FoR Codes: 08 INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES > 0805 Distributed Computing > 080599 Distributed Computing not elsewhere classified @ 100%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060208 Terrestrial Ecology @ 0%
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