The Wet Tropics of Queensland is one of a handful of sites worldwide which meet all four criteria for World Heritage listing:
Whilst all habitat types on planet Earth are special, rainforest is the one that perhaps captures our hearts and imagination the most easily. It is the most luxuriant in terms of plant and animal life and also the oldest in geological terms, many species having survived in an almost unchanged state for an amazing 85 million years. It may surprise many people to learn that 30 million years ago, there were no Eucalypts or Gums as we fondly call them, anywhere in Australia. As the continent dried some rainforest trees adapted to the changing conditions and literally walked out of the darkness and modified their leaves and fruits to become the much loved ‘eucs’.
Rainforest comes in many different forms from cool temperate to wet tropical such as may be found here in Mission Beach. Tropical rainforest is characterized by amazing floral diversity with in excess of two and a half thousand different trees, shrubs and vines recorded from the northern rainforests and over half of the continents native orchids.
Bird, mammal, reptile and insect life is also abundant and whilst some species such as the Echidna are equally at home in rainforest as in desert, others are specialized and lead their entire lives never leaving the closed canopy: The Musky Rat-kangaroo and Striped Possum being two local examples. Insect life includes the stunning Ulysses and Cairns Birdwing Butterflies amidst a huge array of fascinating small creatures.
Soft fruits are prolific and so fruit eating birds (frugivores) abound and include a range of Pigeons, Orioles, the Figbird and of course the endangered Southern Cassowary.
Today rainforest covers a mere 2% of the continent’s total landmass and clearing by early settlers and timber getters caused fragmentation which reduced many species in numbers but increased public awareness and the tendency towards a ‘greener’ lifestyle has halted, it not reversed this trend and so today our rainforests are in better condition than perhaps a century ago and the ongoing efforts of green groups across Australia will ultimately result in better protection for this most unique and valuable habitat, one that continues to stir our emotions and provide us with an overwhelming sense of nature’s grandeur.
Welcome to Mission Beach and do take the time to explore this magnificent natural resource.