Tangled visions: changing scientific understandings of the North Queensland rainforests, 1770 – 1990

Sanderson, Rachel L. (2005) Tangled visions: changing scientific understandings of the North Queensland rainforests, 1770 – 1990. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

Science and scientists have played key roles in shaping popular perceptions of the rainforest environment, and their work has directed both the development and preservation of rainforest areas in North Queensland. This thesis examines the broad development of scientific understandings of, and interactions with, the rainforests of North Queensland from the period of early European exploration to the emergence of powerful scientific support for rainforest conservation in the 1980s. The thesis focuses on four distinct but interrelated scientific approaches: taxonomic botany, ecology, palaeoecology and biogeography. In particular, it argues that two shifts in scientific understanding have been of critical importance in re-shaping perceptions of rainforest. The first was the emergence of an ecological view of the rainforests, which saw them not as conglomerations of species, but as complex living systems. The second was the revision of the evolutionary history of Australian rainforests, from the belief that they were an ‘alien and invasive’ form of vegetation, to the understanding that these forests were of ancient and indigenous origin. Further, this thesis argues that scientists’ attempts to understand the rainforest have led them to consider the complex and interconnected environmental and human histories of the region. The thesis explores the way scientific texts can act as historical documents, both because of the evidence they provide about land-use and environmental change, and because of the ways in which they reflect in content and form the changing environmental values and visions of a settler society.

Item ID: 2092
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: North Queensland, rainforests, 18th century, 19th century, 20th century, botany, botanists, perceptions, scientists, development, preservation, conservation, exploration, taxonomy, ecology, palaeoecology, biogeography, evolution, land use
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2009 02:14
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 0%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies @ 0%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0603 Evolutionary Biology @ 0%
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