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Biodiversity in Australia – Australian Native Plants, Marsupials & Other Wildlife

written by: ciel s cantoria•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 5/26/2011

Australia with its varied climate and isolated territories provide the ideal breeding grounds for marsupials, other wildlife & plants native to Australia. Physiological adaptation and interaction are the key factors where more than a million plants & animals in Australia find suitable habitats.

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    Appreciating the Biodiversity in Plant and Animal Habitats in Australia

    The biodiversity of Australian plants and animal habitats, paints a colorful picture of a sustainable environment, being the home to more than a million biological species. Most of the native plants and animals found in the land down under, are survivors that evolved from ancient and relic species found only in Australia. Hence, out of the 13.6 million species of plants, animals and microorganisms on earth, this vast continent plays hosts to 7% of the Earth’s various sustainable life forms.

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    Australian Native Plants

    wattle 

    The Australian Acacia or Wattle

    The Australian Acacia, which also serves as Australia’s national floral emblem, is the most prevalent example of the plant bio-diversity in Australia. Also known as “wattle”, its more than 1,000 species, is a rich resource of Australian economic, environmental, and social needs.

    This plant species propagates in all climate regions of Australia and has strong showings of survival in almost all ecological conditions. This plant genus is easy to propagate hence it has the ability to meet the demands for industrial wood and tannin-rich bark. Tannin is a substance found in barks of trees found useful for its precipitating and binding proteins. In other places, Acacia trees find use as firewood or for land rehabilitation plantings and can cover as much as 2 million hectares due to its rapid growth ability.

    Acacias can come in different forms from flat, mat-like, sub-shrubs to tall forest trees in all habitats whether rain forest, grassland, coastal, deserts, woodlands and even alpine communities. The aborigines of Australia find use for wattles as implements for weapons, fuel, gum, edible seed, and musical instrument. One of Australian’s substantial industries has found great support in the vast availability of the Black Wattle, the main source of the tan bark industry.

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    120px-Eucalyptus oilda leaves1 The Australian Eucalyptus Tree or Gum Tree

    Another native plant growing in abundance in Australia’s bush lands are the eucalyptus trees. Also known as Gum Tree because of its fresh and clean fragrance that often reminds one of a eucalyptus mint flavor in breath freshening chewing gums The abundance of eucalyptus trees which makes up about ¾ of Australian bushlands makes it possible for this country to export eucalyptus oil all across the globe aside from sustaining its own local demand.

    The eucalyptus oil extracted from its leaves provide the main curing ingredient that makes oil rubs and other liniment effective as home cures to relieve colds, flu, cough, stuffy nose and sore throat. When mixed with other carrier oils like baby oil, jojoba or almond oil, the resulting concoctions are used by massage therapists to provide relief for aching joints and muscles. Due to its antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties, eucalyptus extract is also integrated as a main component of sanitizers, deodorizers, cleaning solvents and stain removers. In addition, eucalyptus oil has also been proven as an efficient insect repellent.

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    800px-Tropical savannah (Top End) 

    Australian Bush Land Savannas

    This is where most acacias and eucalyptus trees proliferate in abundance and provide the sustenance and protection that Australian marsupials need to survive both the wet or dry seasons in this sub-tropical region. Australia’s kangaroos, wallabies,koalas,wombats, pigeons, doves, finches and parrots find shelter, food and water from these trees.

    Australian ecotours provide walkabout experience in the bush land savannas, allowing tourists to enjoy Australia's wide open spaces as well as get close to kangaroos and koalas and a host of diverse avian or bird wildlife. These tours however, are under close supervision of expert naturalists tour guides.

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    The Marsupials and Other Australian Animals

    Marsupialia collage 

    Physiological adaptation and ecological interactivity are the main sustaining characteristics why Australian wildlife is unique and diverse. The marsupials are the most widespread among the animals in Australia, with 142 species occupying the continent's vast territories. The most famous and common under the marsupial species are the: kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, wombats, bandicoots and the famed Tasmanian Devil.

    These mammals have found ideal existence in isolated territories by adapting to their habitats according to their preferred foods. Kangaroos, possums, and koalas relate to plants while pygmy possums are to nectars. The planigales and quolls find meat, while Tasmanian Devils have a penchant for carrions or grossly put, the rotting flesh of dead animals. Some marsupials, like the bandicoots are less hard to please because they are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plant and meat.

    The wide desert floors may be bare on the surface but underneath, there are burrows filled with creatures, buried eggs, and seeds that are waiting for heavy rains to fall.

    The reason why creatures prefer to be underground is that they find it much cooler here than on the surface. Underground habitats have 40% more moisture, which renders their enclaves beneath ten degrees cooler.

    While in the desert, most Australian animals get their water from the food they eat, usually insects, roots, and seeds. Reptiles have special heat sensing organs for detecting warm-blooded prey. They stay burrowed during the day and look for food at night to conserve moisture and energy.

    Ecological interactions between Australia’s wildlife play an important factor in maintaining life sustainability. Some birds take care of the seed dispersal, pollination and providing of protection. In some cases, ants protect the caterpillar in exchange for sugary secretion derived from the leaves of mistletoe trees. In fact, ants are also responsible for dispersing seeds into numerous plants especially in the arid areas.

    In rain forests, frogs called “poison dart” frogs have highly toxic skin so larger animals will avoid eating them. The native tribes in those areas use the frog’s skin to tip their arrows with poison, for ease of hunting.

    To avoid snakes and lizards that prey on them, the mammals in these parts of Australia live mostly in the trees. Thus,the snakes adapted themselves to climb trees in search of prey. For example, the green and the brown tree snakes have scales textured and curved backward, to grip the bark of the trees that they climb.

    Plants attract smaller insects to feed on their foliage until bigger creatures that are of more aggressive forms will arrive to feed on the smaller ones. In other cases, certain seeds chewed on by some vertebrates will allow faster germination for the plant.

    The mangrove areas are very important in the preservation of the migratory birds in the world, as most of the Northern birds come here to breed during winter. Hence, Australia takes great pride in preserving large areas of tallest and highly developed mangroves.

    Based on Australian statistics, 75% of the commercially caught fish are in these parts because fish life are dependent on food chains found in mangroves; hence, biodiversity in these areas have made fishing relatively easy.

    The biodiversity in Australia is very interesting; as quaint marsupials and plants native to Australia have become symbols and icons of environmental sustainability recognized worldwide.

    Images courtesy of wikimediacommons