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Land of Grass: the Loss of Australia's Grasslands

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To a large extent, the Australia of 1788 was characterised not by forests but by open woodlands and grasslands. Yet many of these areas now contain dense forest. Possible explanations for this dramatic vegetational shift include the cessation of Aboriginal burning regimes and the displacement by domestic stock of mammals that ate tree seedlings. While Australia's grasslands were being overrun, elsewhere destructive and wasteful felling of timber continued apace. The problems resulting from such clearance began to be widely articulated in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, but general attitudes to ringbarking and felling have changed only slowly. The result of all this is that Australia's vegetation is now thoroughly disorganised. The grassy woodlands have gone and with them birds, animals and numerous varieties of grass. Any attempt to provide an environment suitable for the majority of native plants and animals in temperate Australia must depend on the restoration of a pre-European-type mosaic of interconnected grassy woodlands.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: P.O. Box 2038, North Haven, New South Wales 2443, Australia.

Publication date: November 1, 1999

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