Monthly Archives: February 2016

Southwest Australia’s Global Biodiversity Hotspot

 

2016

400th anniversary of the first European Landing in Australia

The Western Australian Naturalists’ Club cordially invites naturalists over Australia to attend the eighth Australian Naturalists’ Network Get-Together to be held at Woodman Point, near Perth, in 2016.

This circular gives;

  • an introduction to the Southwest, (botanical and historical),
  • dates of the ANN2016 and associated tours,
  • details of location, format, accommodation and catering,
  • details of pre and post tours,
  • cost of events and accommodation,
  • enrolment form, and
  • details of timing and payment options.

Introduction to the Southwest

The unique biogeographic region of Southwest Australia, stretching from Shark Bay in the north to Israelite Bay in the south, covers over 300 000 square kilometres and is recognised as an international biodiversity hotspot. https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/conservation/hotspots. Briefly a Global Biodiversity Hot Spot is one where there are over 1500 endemic plant species and where 70% of the land has been cleared.

The Southwest of Western Australia has over 5710 plant species and some 3000 (52.5%) are endemic. The uniqueness of our flora is the result of growing in an area which has been exposed and uninfluenced by glaciation or volcanism for at least 290 million years, which has been totally isolated by seas and deserts for 30 million years and which has had a drying summer climate for 10-15 million years. Professor Stephen Hopper (UWA and former Director of Kew Gardens, London and Kings Park, Perth) termed it OCBIL – old climate-buffered infertile landscape. This region also has 12 species of mammals, 13 species of bird, 27 reptile species and 28 species of frog that are endemic.

(http://awsassets.wwf.org.au/downloads/wa006_swer_jewel_of_the_australian_continent_1apr06.pdf)

Western Australia also has played a significant part in the European discovery of the Great South Land. http://museum.wa.gov.au/maritimearchaeologydb/maritimereports/findingancientlandillustratedresearchessay.

On the 25th of October 1616, Captain Dirk Hartog arrived on the Dutch East India Company vessel the

Eendracht at Shark Bay. By nailing an inscribed pewter plate to a wooden post at the site now known as Cape Inscription on Dirk Hartog Island, he and his crew made the first recorded European landing on Australian soil – 400 years ago this year. http://museum.wa.gov.au/explore/dirkhartog.

In 1697, after exploring the Swan River and collecting some plants, William de Vlamingh landed at Cape Inscription and removed the original plate and replaced it with one of his own. Hartog’s plate is now housed at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Vlamingh’s plate is on display in the Shipwreck Gallery of the WA Maritime Museum in Fremantle. ANN2016 participants will have an opportunity to see the plate during one of the scheduled tours.

Interestingly for botanists, Vlamingh’s collections would have been the earliest from Australia had they survived. Only two specimens were found in Batavia many years later, then incorrectly identified as ferns, and finally correctly named in the early 1800s by Robert Brown (naturalist aboard Mathew Flinders’ Investigator) as Acacia truncata and Synaphea spinulosa from the Swan River area. However in 1699, the British explorer William Dampier also landed at Shark Bay and explored the surrounding area and further north. Dampier was interested in the country and collected and documented many plant and other specimens; 24 plant specimens and documentation survived a ship wreck and now are in the FieldingDruce Herbarium in Oxford– the first scientific collection of plants and other specimens from Australia.

During the Get-Together and the associated tours you will have numerous opportunities to view many of the species that are unique to the Southwest and to visit exhibitions and displays relating to European discovery and exploration as well as learning about the Noongar people, the original inhabitants of the area, and their relationship to the land and sea.

 

 

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