A Natural History and Field Guide to Australia's Top End

van Oosterzee, Penny, Morris, Ian, Lucas, Diane, and Preece, Noel D. (2014) A Natural History and Field Guide to Australia's Top End. Gecko Books, Marleston, SA, Australia.

PDF (Front Pages) - Supplemental Material
Download (9MB) | Preview
View at Publisher Website: http://www.jbbooks.com.au/store/index.ph...


Compared with the densely populated and highly modified landscapes of Australia's temperate environments, the Top End might seem like one of the last expanses of natural environment left on earth. But the tropical north has, however, been subject to drastic change since European settlement. Invasive and insidious, this change has shredded intricate Indigenous land management patterns and pushed elements of the biota of the Top End into a spiral of decline.

European diseases ravaged Indigenous populations, even before the arrival of Europeans themselves, in the nineteenth century. Pastoralism and mining continued violently to displace Indigenous owners. Their use of fire to progressively build a fine mosaic of burnt and unburnt patches has been replaced with a fire regime that burns up to half the landscape each year in hot, ecologically devastating fires.

Today pastoral leases make up about three quarters of the tropical landscape. Conservation lands in contrast comprise about 6% of the landscape mostly in less fertile areas. Perhaps surprisingly, given all this, few extinctions have been recorded in the Top End. This is in stark contrast to central Australia which has one the world's highest extinctions rates: 18 native mammals species, about one third of the total desert fauna. That the impacts of European land management have triggered a destabilizing chain of events is, however, now evident in the growing list of endangered animals and plants in the Top End: 14 land mammals, 15 birds, 7 reptiles and a frog, 9 fish, 11 invertebrates and 54 plant species.

The focus of this book unashamedly has been on the vivid natural history of the Darwin region and beyond, but much of what you will find is unnatural. Mimosa, mimosa pigra, forms dense impenetrable thickets in wetlands. Ponded pastures have often replaced native grasses and sedges. Pasture grasses, such as Gamba grass, Andropogon gayensis, (see adjacent box) have spread aggressively with irreversible effects on wildlife. Of the thousands of species of pasture introduced because they were considered desirable, less than one percent has likely been of any real pastoral benefit and not become weedy. Not including cattle, exotic animals, such as cane toads (see adjacent box) buffalo, and pigs are now some of the most obvious and widespread animal species.

Even so, the Top End environments are, to a large extent, intact. Their rugged individuality has shrugged off development ambition that includes wholesale clearing and intensive agriculture. But for how long?

Research Statement

Research Background Decades of research on the monsoon tropics of the Northern Territory formed the basis for this comprehensive natural history and field guide. The book is based on extensive literature on the natural history, biogeography, zoology, botany and geology of the region.
Research Contribution This is the first natural history and field guide of the Top End of the northern Territory, the monsoon tropic zone, which brings together into one volume a concise interpretation of the wonders of the natural history of the region. It is supported by excellent photographs of many of the plants, animals and landforms, plus some amazing photos of weather formations and phenomena of this distinct region.
Research Significance Interpreting science for the lay person is vital in raising interest in the natural history of Australia's unique biota and landforms, climate and cultural history.
Item ID: 35968
Item Type: Book (Reference)
ISBN: 978-0-9924208-3-3
Keywords: Northern Territory; biodiversity; fauna; flora; monsoon tropics
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2015 02:20
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060299 Ecology not elsewhere classified @ 50%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0499 Other Earth Sciences > 049999 Earth Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 25%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060809 Vertebrate Biology @ 25%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences @ 50%
Downloads: Total: 673
Last 12 Months: 14
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page