The Wet Tropics of Queensland, or Wet Tropics, stretches along the northeast coast of Australia for some 450 kilometres. Encompassing some 894,420 hectares of mostly tropical rainforest, this stunningly beautiful area is extremely important for its rich and unique biodiversity. It also presents an unparalleled record of the ecological and evolutionary processes that shaped the flora and fauna of Australia, containing the relicts of the great Gondwanan forest that covered Australia and part of Antarctica 50 to 100 million years ago. All of Australia’s unique marsupials and most of its other animals originated in rainforest ecosystems, and their closest surviving relatives occur in the Wet Tropics. These living relicts of the Gondwanan era and their subsequent diversification provide unique insights to the process of evolution in general. They also provide important information for the interpretation of fossils of plants and animals found elsewhere in Australia, and about the evolution of Australia’s sclerophyll flora and marsupial fauna in particular.
The property supports tropical rainforests at their latitudinal and climatic limits, and unlike most other seasonal tropical evergreen equatorial forests, is subject to a dry season and to frequent cyclonic events. Many of the distinct features of the Wet Tropics relate to its extremely high but seasonal rainfall, diverse terrain and steep environmental gradients. In addition to its complex array of species and life forms, the Wet Tropics is also recognised as an area possessing outstanding scenic features, natural beauty and magnificent sweeping landscapes.
Criterion (vii): The Wet Tropics exhibit exceptional natural beauty, with superlative scenic features highlighted by extensive sweeping forest vistas, wild rivers, waterfalls, rugged gorges and coastal scenery. This is particularly apparent between the Daintree River and Cedar Bay, where exceptional coastal scenery combines tropical rainforest and white sandy beaches with fringing offshore coral reefs. The winding channels of the Hinchinbrook Channel contain the most extensive mangroves in the region, providing a rich visual mosaic of rainforest and mangroves, and a terrestrial continuum with the Great Barrier Reef.
Criterion (viii): The Wet Tropics contains one of the most complete and diverse living records of the major stages in the evolution of land plants, from the very first pteridophytes more than 200 million years ago to the evolution of seed-producing plants including the cone-bearing cycads and southern conifers (gymnosperms), followed by the flowering plants (angiosperms). As the Wet Tropics is the largest part of the entire Australasian region where rainforests have persisted continuously since Gondwanan times, its living flora, with the highest concentration of primitive, archaic and relict taxa known, is the closest modern-day counterpart for Gondwanan forests. In addition, all of Australia’s unique marsupials and most of its other animals originated in rainforest ecosystems, and the Wet Tropics still contains many of their closest surviving members. This makes it one of the most important living records of the history of marsupials as well as of songbirds.
Criterion (ix): The Wet Tropics provides outstanding examples of significant ongoing ecological processes and biological evolution. As a centre of endemism for the region (second only to New Caledonia in the number of endemic genera per unit area), the Wet Tropics provides fundamental insights into evolutionary patterns both in isolation from and in interaction with other rainforests. Its tall, open forests on the drier western margins of the rainforest are also significant as part of an evolutionary continuum of rainforest and sclerophyll forests. Eucalypts, that now dominate the Australian landscape, are considered to have evolved from such rainforest stock and radiated into drier environments from the margins of closed forests.