|List||World Heritage List|
|Legal Status||Declared property (15/12/1989)|
|Place File No||6/01/101/0018|
|Statement of Significance|
Wilderness was inscribed on the World Heritage List for both its outstanding
natural and cultural universal values:
Rocks from every geological period are represented in the area, the oldest being formed about 1 100 million years ago during the Precambrian period. Some of the rock types, such as limestone and dolomite, are soluble in water, which has resulted in the development of various karst features such as sinkholes and caves. These are some of the deepest and longest caves in Australia. Exit Cave, near Lune River has over 20 kilometres of passageways and spectacular cave formations.
The area contains a wide variety of vegetation including closed forest (temperate rain forest), open forest (eucalypt forest), buttongrass moorland and alpine communities. The flora occurs in a unique mosaic of Antarctic and Australian elements with the Antarctic element consisting of species descended from the supercontinent of Gondwana.
Because of the diversity of its vegetation the region is recognised as an International Centre for Plant Diversity by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Some of the oldest known trees in the world grow in the area, such as Huon pines. The area contains approximately 240 (or two thirds) of Tasmania's higher plant species, of which about half have most of their distribution in the World Heritage area.
The fauna is of world importance because it includes an unusually high proportion of endemic species and relict groups of ancient lineage. The diverse topography, geology, soils and vegetation, in association with harsh and variable climatic conditions, combine to create a wide array of animal habitats. The fauna is correspondingly diverse. Two main faunal groups can be recognised: one group, including the marsupials and burrowing freshwater crayfish, has survived as relicts of the Gondwana fauna; the other group, including rodents and bats, invaded Australia from Asia millions of years after the break up of Gondwanaland.
The insularity of Tasmania, and of the Tasmanian Wilderness in particular, has contributed to its uniqueness and has helped to protect it from the impact of exotic species that have seriously affected the environment of the Australian mainland . The Tasmanian Wilderness is a stronghold for several animals that are either extinct or threatened on mainland Australia. The world's largest marsupial carnivores, the Tasmanian devil, spotted-tailed quoll and eastern quoll are commonly seen at night.
Fauna endemic to the region include the green rosella and orange-bellied parrot; frogs, such as the newly-discovered moss froglet and Tasmanian tree frog; the Tasmanian cave spider; burrowing crayfish; and peripatopsid velvet worms.
The region's cultural World Heritage values relate both to Aboriginal occupation and European settlement.
Archaeological surveys of inland valleys such as the Gordon, Franklin, Andrew, Acheron, Weld, Cracroft, Denison and Maxwell rivers have revealed an exceptionally rich and important collection of Aboriginal sites, including Kutikina Cave. These places, along with all of the World Heritage Area's Aboriginal sites, are extremely important to the Tasmanian Aboriginal community, having exceptional cultural, emotional and spiritual value.
More than 40 sites have been located in the south west inland river valleys, with human occupation dating to at least 30 000 years ago. At the time these places were occupied the climate was significantly colder and drier than it is now and the sites reveal the special ways thatthe Aboriginal community developed to deal with these conditions. The severity of the climate reached a peak 18 000 years ago, at the height of the last Ice Age.
This group of places, which also includes rock art sites, forms one of the richest and best-preserved collection of Ice Age sites found anywhere in the world. As well, during the periods of earliest occupation, the Aboriginal people of the region may have been the most southerly peoples on earth.
Together with other more recent Aboriginal places from throughout the World Heritage Area (including those in coastal areas), the sites show how the Tasmanian Aboriginal people have developed a distinctive way of life in a rugged and harsh landscape.
The World Heritage values of the Tasmanian Wilderness relating to European settlement are those of the area's convict past. The colonisation of parts of the globe by means of the forced transportation of convicts from Europe was a significant feature of world population movement in the 18th and 19th centuries. Australia was unique, in that it was the only British colony founded as a convict settlement.
The Macquarie Harbour penal settlement was based on Sarah Island and in use from 1821 to 1833.
In contrast to the mainland, the island of Tasmania
is a rugged region with fold structures in the western half and fault
structures in the east, both of which are represented in the property. The fold
structure province in the south-west is an extremely rugged and densely
vegetated region with north-south oriented mountain ranges and valley systems.
Rocks vary in age from Precambrian to Devonian and have been subjected to two
major structural events, the Frenchman and Tabberaberan orogenies. Precambrian units
are widespread and consist of quartzite, schist, phyllite, conglomerate,
dolomite, siltstone and sandstone. The more resistant sequences, such as
quartzite, form most of the prominent ranges in the area, while less resistant
schist, dolomite and phyllite underline many of the valleys and plains.
Changing climates have also influenced landscape development, highlighted most
recently by late Cainozoic and Pleistocene glacial and periglacial events. Ice
caps, cirque glaciers and valley glaciers were generally confined to the high
mountains and plateaux. Glacial erosion has contributed to spectacular landform
features including horns, arętes, cirques, "U"-shaped valleys and
rock basins (tarns). These are common at Frenchmans Cap and in the Frankland,
Arthur, Prince of Wales and Ironbound ranges. Below about 600m, depositional
features are typical including moraines and various other outwash deposits.
Periglacial activities included considerable slope instability in extraglacial
areas, giving rise to gelifluctate, landslip and talus deposits. The coastline
has been subjected to a number of sea-level changes during the glaciations and
presently provides a classic example of a drowned landscape, as shown by the
discordant coastline in the south, and ria at Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour.
The drainage system has a pronounced trellis pattern, with only the larger
rivers, notably the Franklin and Gordon, having cut directly through the
mountain ranges to produce spectacular gorges. Special landforms associated
with thedevelopment of karst have formed through the solution of carbonate
rocks such as (Precambrian) dolomite and (Ordovician) limestone. Features
include cave systems, natural arches, clints and grikes, dolines, karren,
pinnacles and blind valleys. A large meteorite impact crater of Pleistocene age
in the Andrew River valley is of worldwide
significance (Government of Australia, 1988). |
The fault structure province in the east and north includes Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, parts of Lemonthyme and Southern forests and the Mount Anne and Mount Ronald Cross areas. It consists of Permian-Triassic sediments, capped by Jurassic dolerite, and generally occurs above about 600m, except in the east. Basement rocks are probably of Precambrian, Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian age and are generally overlain by upper and lower horizontal sediments of the Parmeener Supergroup. The lower (Permian) unit consists of glacio-marine sequences including tillite, sandstone, siltstone, mudstone and limestone horizons. The upper (Triassic) unit contains banks of sandstone, mudstone, siltstone and coal, probably laid down during a humid, cool climate in swamps, lakes and river channels. The rocks contain rare plant and amphibian fossils. A dramatic period of igneous activity followed the deposition of these sediments in the Jurassic, with the injection of massive amounts of dolerite into the Parmeener Supergroup. Due to its resistant nature dolerite covers a vast tract of the WHA. Sedimentary roof rocks are restricted to areas such as the Walls of Jerusalem. Faulting, which may have occurred during the Jurassic, Cretaceous or Tertiary periods, produced the distinct scarp-bounded plateaux and residual hills which contrast dramatically with the fold structure province to the south. Ice caps, valley glaciers and cirque glaciers covered most of the higher country in this province. Outstanding features include Lake St Clair (the deepest lake in Australia) and the myriad of lakes on the plateau surface south of the Walls of Jerusalem. Cirques occur on most mountains, and glacio-fluvial deposits are found in Picton, Middle Huon and Upper Weld valleys. Extensive underground passages occur in the widely distributed limestone and dolomite, notably at Precipitous Bluff, Mount Anne, Upper Weld River, Franklin River and Gordon River. Exit Cave is the longest measured cave system in Australia (19km) and Anne-a-kananda, in the Upper Weld-Mt Anne karst system, is the deepest cave (373m) (Government of Australia, 1988).
South-west Tasmania is the most consistently wet region in Australia. It is subject to the westerly regime of the Roaring Forties and characterised by high annual rainfall, high incidence of cloud and cool temperatures. Rainfall over the Gordon-Franklin basin ranges from about 1800mm in the headwaters of the Franklin to over 3400mm in the vicinity of Serpentine Dam (Bosworth, 1977).
The vegetation has as much in common with cool, temperate regions of South American and New Zealand as with the rest of Australia. In addition to climatic and edaphic factors, the vegetation has developed in response to fire. Aboriginal occupation over the last 30,000 years has constituted a major source of fire; more recently, much fire can be attributed to the interests of fishermen, logging concerns and prospectors. Of identified vegetation communities in Tasmania, the property contains at least 42 of the 43 alpine communities, 33 of the 39 temperate rain forest communities, 40 of the 65 wet sclerophyll communities, 22 of the 31 buttongrass moorland communities, 13 of the 42 grassland and grassy woodland communities, each of the eight Sphagnum peatland communities and 21 of the 33 coastal communities (Kirkpatrick et al., 1995).
Alpine vegetation occupies the higher peaks and plateaux above the treeline, which varies from about 800m near the coast to 1,200m inland. It is almost totally dominated by shrubby species, as opposed to the typical tussock grass and herb-dominant vegetation of the mainland alps. Those parts of the alpine zone where drainage is slow support fascinating plant communities dominated by bolster plants and dwarf pines. Taller heaths and coniferous shrubberies are found on well-drained sites, including boulder fields. The alpine communities have an extremely high plant endemism, up to 60% (Government of Australia, 1988).
Temperate rain forest, covering less than 30% of the area below the treeline, is characterised by the dominance of Antarctic tree species, a generally low diversity of higher plants and a rich cryptogamic flora. It differs from tropical and subtropical rain forests in the low number of dominant tree species, the absence of lianes, the relative lack of epiphytes apart from moss and lichen, the total absence of typical rain forest morphological adaptions, such as drip tip leaves, stem-flowering and buttressing, and in the small leaves of its dominant species. These characteristics, whilst having much in common with the temperate rain forests of New Zealand and South America, remain distinctive. Most of the rain forest contains myrtle beech Nothofagus cunninghamii, leatherwood Eucryphia lucida and sassafras Atherosperma moschatum, of which myrtle beech is usually dominant. Co-dominants are Huon pine Lagarostrobos franklinii, one of the longest-lived species in Australia (2,000 years or more), in riverine habitats, and King Billy pine Athrotaxis selaginoides, celery top pine Phyllocladus aspleniifolius, and horizontal Anodopetalum biglandulosum on poor sites and at high altitudes (Government of Australia, 1988).
Over large areas, either of two eucalypts, messmate stringybark Eucalyptus obliqua and Smithton peppermint Eucalyptus nitida, is found emergent from rain forest, the former species on the better soils in the east and the latter on the poorer soils mainly in the west. In addition to these mixed forests (eucalypt forests with rain forest understorey), eucalypts dominate other communities such as sub-alpine woodlands, dry sclerophyll forests and woodlands in which the understorey is multiple-aged and contains small-leaved prickly shrub species, wet sclerophyll forests in which the understorey is uniform-aged and contains broad-leaved shrub species and ferns, and some scrub and moorland communities. Of particular conservation importance are the magnificent examples of pristine tall forests, with eucalyptus such as swamp gum Eucalyptus regnans (the world's tallest flowering plant) forming a 60-90m high canopy over a 10-20m high closed wet sclerophyll understorey of Olearia argophylla, Pomaderris apetala, Acacia dealbata and Acacia melanoxylon. Rain forest species such as myrtle beech, sassafras and tree ferns replace the wet sclerophyll understorey where fire frequency has been low (Government of Australia, 1988).
Nearly half of the area comprises moorland vegetation, dominated by buttongrass Gymnoschoenus sphaerocephalus on poor soils and typically surrounded by scrub and heath communities with ti-trees Leptospermum spp. and paperbarks Melaleuca spp. predominant. Grassland is limited to small patches, some of which are the product of firing of rain forest, and the rest is probably edaphic or climatic in origin. Specialist communities occur in more restricted habitats. Of particular note is the wide range of lentic and lotic ecosystems. Owing to their unusual hydrological properties, Lake Sydney and Lake Timk have developed interesting marginal herbaceous communities, while the Snowy Range contains examples of dynamic string bog systems represented by bolster plants. Meromictic lakes and coastal lagoons, with their unusual micro-organisms, are also important wetlands. On a larger scale, the south-west coast has a wide range of plant communities peculiar to salt marsh, coastalcliffs, coastal sand dunes and sea bird breeding colonies. These offer specialised niches for rare and restricted endemic plants. Limestone and dolomite substrates, whether on lowland plains, riverine cliffs or at high altitude, are also important habitats for restricted endemics (Government of Australia, 1988).
The closed forest (temperate rain forest), open forest (eucalypt forest), buttongrass moorland and the alpine communities occur in an unique mosaic of Antarctic and Australian elements of the flora. The Antarctic element consists of species descended from the super-continent of Gondwana. For example, populations of relictual Gondwanan conifer genera, now known only from Tasmania, i.e. Athrotaxis, Diselma, Microcachrys, are present and best represented in alpine moorland and rain forest communities. The plants of the Australian element which have evolved more recently dominate the sclerophyll communities of the area. The genus Eucalyptus is a prime example. Such is the size and diversity of the property that it harbours a wealth of habitats which support many unusual plant taxa and communities. Two-thirds (240) of Tasmania's endemic higher plant taxa are present in the area; about half of these are dependent on the area for most of their distribution. The area contains many threatened higher plant species, including many endemic to Tasmania. It is also likely to be correspondingly important for the conservation of lower plant species, but knowledge of these is as yet fragmentary. Preliminary studies of lichens and bryophytes have already revealed the presence of new endemic taxa (Government of Australia, 1988).
The fauna is of world importance because it includes an unusually high proportion of endemic species and relict groups of ancient lineage. Tasmanian endemism is very high, ranging from 20% to 100% in invertebrate groups. Due to the diverse topography, geology, soils and vegetation in association with harsh and variable climatic conditions combining to create a wide array of animal habitats, the fauna is correspondingly diverse. The insularity of Tasmania, and of the Tasmanian Wilderness in particular, has contributed to its uniqueness and has helped to protect it from the impact of exotic species which has seriously affected the mainland fauna. Two main faunal groups can be recognised: one, including the marsupials and burrowing freshwater crayfish, that has survived as relicts of the Gondwana fauna; and another, including rodents and bats, that invaded Australia from Asia millions of years after the break up of Gondwanaland. Of Tasmania's 32 mammal species, 27 are present. Four of these are endemic to Tasmania including Tasmanian devil Sarcophilus harrisii, the world's largest extant carnivorous marsupial. Another species, the thylacine Thylacinus cynocephalus (Ex), is thought to be extinct, having been last recorded in 1936, but there are unconfirmed reports of its continued survival. Over 150 bird species are present, of which 13 are endemic including orange-bellied parrot Neophema chrysogaster (R), one of Australia's rarest and most threatened birds (Brown et al., 1985). There are 11 reptile species, of which four are endemic. One, Pedra Branca skink Pseudemoia palfreyman (R), lives only on the small rocky island of Pedra Branca off the coast. Six frog species are present, of which two are endemic. Tasmanian tree frog Litoria burrowsi is mainly restricted to the area. There are 15 species of freshwater fish including four endemic species. Two native fish, swamp galaxias Galaxias parvus (V) and Lake Pedder galaxias G. pedderensis (V), are largely restricted to the area. Introduced species, such as trout Salmo spp. and Salvelinus fontinalis, have been implicated in the decline of several native fish species. The invertebrate fauna, including cave-adapted species, is also outstanding (Government of Australia, 1988).
Alpine regions are typified by a specialised fauna of great zoogeographic interest, with high endemicity and local phenotypic variation. Three endemic species of lizards of the genus Leiolopisma occur on mountain tops. Many alpine insects are adapted to pollinate the alpine vegetation. Diurnal moths of the primitive sub-family Archiearinae occur on some peaks. Alpine grasshoppers are common and include four monotypic endemic genera. The rare endemic dragonfly Archipetalia auriculata (I) breeds in alpine streams. It is the most archaic member of an ancient family, Neopetaliidae, and has strong Gondwanan affinities. The rain forest invertebrate fauna is diverse and includes many groups of Gondwana descent. Talitrid amphipods, which have undergone great adaptive radiation in Tasmanian forests, are represented by 15 species, making the area one of the richest centres of diversity for talitrids in the world. Among mammals, only the endemic long-tailed mouse Pseudomys higginsi occurs principally in the rain forest. The lack of a distinct rain forest mammal fauna has parallels with Nothofagus-dominated rain forests of New Zealand and Southern America. No birds, reptiles or amphibians are confined to this habitat type. Closed forests are inhabited by three species of arboreal mammals, common ring-tail possum Pseudocheirus peregrinus, common brush-tail possum Trichosurus vulpecula and eastern pygmy-possum Cercartetus nanus, and many birds such as endemic green rosella Platycercus caledonicus and swift parrot Lathamus discolor. Eucalypt forest supports a greater diversity of mammals and birds than rain forest, scrub, heath, moorland or alpine areas. Scrub, heath and moorland are occupied by animals with many interesting adaptations. In coastal areas and on offshore islands, vast numbers of short-tailed shearwater Puffinus tenuirostris return to breed each year. Moorland dominated by buttongrass is inhabited by orange-bellied parrot Neophema chrysogaster (R), ground parrot Pezoporus wallicus (E), and the rare broad-toothed rat Mastacomys fuscus. Freshwater crayfish, such as the endemic Parastacoides tasmanicus, live in burrows under the buttongrass tussocks despite the highly acidic environment; their burrows are in turn colonised by a range of extraordinary endemic invertebrates, such as the primitive syncarid crustaceans Allanaspides helonomus and A. hickmani. Both of these species have very restricted distributions near the inundated Lake Pedder. The monotypic endemic dragonfly Synthemiopsis gomphomacromioides breeds in the mud surrounding buttongrass tussocks. Within aquatic habitats, the freshwater crustaceans are of global significance, as many groups such as amphipods, isopods and crayfish are relicts of the Gondwana fauna. Three meromictic lakes on the Lower Gordon River, of international repute for being permanently stratified and yet relatively shallow, are inhabited by diverse and unusual aquatic micro-organisms. Streams, rivers, coastal lagoons and estuaries support many species of native fish and a highly endemic aquatic invertebrate fauna. Major rivers, such as the Old and Davey rivers in the south-west and New River in the Southern Forests, are of great importance as scientific reference because of their pristine state. The lakes of the Denison Range are of great interest because of their physical and chemical characteristics. An analysis of the chemical properties, light regime and the Tasmanian endemic algal flora shows that the lakes are significant in terms of the east-west divide. Caves are inhabited by many endemic invertebrates including crickets, spiders, beetles and aquatic crustaceans. Displays of Tasmanian glow-worm Arachnocampa tasmaniensis can be seen at several locations, particularly at Exit and Entrance caves (Government of Australia, 1988). Port Davey has recently attracted attention due to the discovery of an unusual marine community including new species of skate and sea slugs (Thwaites, 1995).
Tasmania was cut off from
mainland Australia by the
flooding of Bass Strait at least 8,000 years
ago, thereby isolating the aboriginal inhabitants. The Tasmanian Aborigines
were, until the advent of the European explorer Abel Tasman, thelongest isolated human group in world history, surviving
some 500 generations without outside influence. Current archaeological evidence
indicates a significant Ice Age (Pleistocene) hunter-gatherer society inland in
the south-western region, which existed from at least 30,000 years ago until
the end of the Ice Age some 11,500 years ago, when vegetation changed from open
grassland/woodland to rain forest with the advent of warmer conditions. Some 30
caves have been located: Judds Cavern (Wargata Mina), with over 3.5km of explored passages and one
of the largest river caves in Australia, is almost certainly the most southerly
painted site in the world. Coastal occupation by Aborigines dates from at least
3,000 years ago to the time of European arrival in the 19th century, but may
date from around 6,000 years ago when the sea stabilised at its present level
(Government of Australia, 1988). |
At the time of the first European arrivals, the area was occupied by two main tribal groups - Big River Tribe in the central highlands and Port Davey Tribe who predominantly inhabited the south-west and southern coastal regions. Each tribe is estimated to have comprised 300 to 400 people. The aboriginal population was removed in the 1830s by the missionary zealot G.A. Robinson. European incursion into the area commenced in the early 1800s, mainly for Huon pine cutting and whaling. Whaling ceased before the turn of the century but pine cutting continued more or less up to recent times in some places (Government of Australia, 1988). Sarah Island Historic Site was chosen for a convict settlement in 1821 because of its remoteness and the availability of Huon pine for boat building (PWS, in litt., 1996).
|Condition and Integrity Not Available|
south-west Tasmania, comprising the following:|
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park 161,427ha
Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park 446,387ha
Southwest National Park 73,570ha
Walls of Jerusalem National Park 51,800ha
Hartz Mountains National Park 7,140ha
Marakoopa Cave State Reserve 790ha
Devils Gullet State Reserve 806 ha
Liffey Falls State Reserve (part) 20ha
Macquarie Harbour Historic Site15,300ha
Farm Cove Game Reserve 1,720ha
Central Plateau Conservation Area 89,200ha
Adamsfield Conservation Area 5,400ha
Southwest Conservation Area (vested in HEC) 616ha
Marble Hill Conservation Area 77ha
Maatsuyker Island (Commonwealth freehold) 180ha
St Clare Lagoon (vested in HEC) 29ha
Meander Forest Reserve 1,660ha
Liffey Forest Reserve 1,055ha
Drys Bluff Forest Reserve 680ha
Wargata Mina Protected Archaeological Site 155ha
Maxwell River Protected Archaeological Site 560ha
Devils Gullet State Reserve 302ha
Also included is 320ha of privately owned land comprising the following Land Parcels:
Land Parcels Hamilton 20 0038, 0039, 0040, 0072, 0120, 1191 and 1192.
* Dove River 319 ha; Mersey Valley 1 - 96 ha; and Mersey Valley 2 – 12 ha were added in 2010
** Beech Creek 133 ha; Navarre Plains 760 ha; Counsel River 135 ha; Beech Creek-Counsel River 3,791 ha; Tiger Range 1,123 ha and Nelson Falls 325 ha were added in June 2010
***Hartz `hole' 1,212 ha; Southeast of Cockle Creek 2,154 ha; Little Florentine River 819 ha; Styx River 1,017 ha; Blakes Opening 3,715 ha; Cooks Rivulet 335 ha; Farmhouse Creek 334 ha;
East Picton 405 ha; Hastings Caves 1,242 ha; D'Entrecasteaux River 1,447 ha; and Catamaran River 390 ha were added in 2010
The Southwest Conservation Area (Melaleuca to Cox Bight)* 3,800ha was added in June 2012.
* note this are became the part of Southwest National Park between Melaleuca and Cox Bight in December 2012.
Department of Parks, Wildlife and Heritage
World Heritage Area, Hobart.|
Figgis, P. and Mosley, G. (1988) Australia's Wilderness Heritage Weldon Publishing, Sydney.
Gee, H. et al (1978) The South West Book: a Tasmanian Wilderness ACF, Melbourne.
Smith, S. J. and Banks, M. R. (1990) Tasmanian Wilderness-World Heritage Values Royal Society of Tasmania, Hobart.
Report Produced Mon Dec 9 02:40:41 2013