Covering approximately 20 per cent of Tasmania, the Tasmanian Wilderness is one of the largest conservation reserves in Australia. At approximately 14,000 km², it is one of the three largest temperate wilderness areas remaining in the Southern Hemisphere.
Description of place
The rugged and spectacular landscapes of the Tasmanian Wilderness contain rocks from almost every geological period, the oldest being formed about 1,100 million years ago during the Precambrian period. Some of the deepest and longest caves in Australia and other spectacular karst landscapes are found here.
Due to the diversity of its vegetation the region is recognised as an International Centre for Plant Diversity by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The highly varied flora, ranging from open and closed forests through to buttongrass moorland and alpine communities, occurs in a unique mosaic of Antarctic and Australian elements. The Antarctic element consists of species descended from those present on the supercontinent Gondwana.
Some of the longest lived trees in the world such as Huon pines (Lagarostrobos) and other native conifers grow in the area. Nothofagus is an ancient plant genus of Gondwanan ancestry, represented in the area by N. cunninghamii and Australia's only winter deciduous tree, N. gunnii. Some of the tallest flowering plants in the world, Eucalyptus regnans, grow here. The area contains approximately 255, or 63 per cent, of Tasmania's endemic vascular plant species.
The fauna is also of global significance 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. Many groups of marsupials and burrowing freshwater crayfish have survived as relicts of the Gondwanan fauna.
The insularity of Tasmania, and of the Tasmanian Wilderness in particular, has contributed to its uniqueness. The area remains a stronghold for several animals such as the Tasmanian devil, Tasmanian pademelon, eastern quoll and ground parrot that are either extinct or threatened on mainland Australia. The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is home to the last wild breeding population of the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot. There may be less than 50 Orange-bellied Parrots in the wild currently.
Fauna endemic to the region include the moss froglet, Pedra Branca skink, Pedder galaxias and invertebrate groups with a high proportion of species entirely or primarily restricted to the area, such as freshwater crayfish, mountain shrimps, stoneflies, caddisflies, landhoppers and harvestmen.
The area's cultural world heritage values relate to Aboriginal occupation.
Archaeological surveys have revealed an exceptionally rich and important collection of Aboriginal sites, including Kutikina Cave. These places, along with all of the world heritage property's Aboriginal sites, are extremely important to the Tasmanian Aboriginal community for their exceptional cultural, emotional and spiritual value.
Over 40 sites have been located in the south west inland river valleys that indicate human occupation dating to at least 30,000 years ago. When these places were occupied the climate was significantly colder and drier than it is now, and the sites reveal the distinctive ways the Tasmanian Aboriginal community developed to survive climate change and Ice Age conditions.
This group of places, which also includes rock art sites, forms one of the richest and best-preserved collections of Ice Age sites found anywhere in the world. During the periods of earliest occupation, the Aboriginal people of the region are believed to have been the most southerly people on earth.
Day-to-day management of the area is the responsibility of the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment). Specialist advice is provided to the Service by the Resource Management and Conservation Division (Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment).
World Heritage listing
Visit the UNESCO web site for official listing information on the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area: