One of the most frequently asked questions on our tour is, “How is climate change affecting the Daintree Rainforest?”.
The long term answer is easy. When Australia broke away from the already fragmenting supercontinent of Gondwana, about 50-million years ago, leaving Antarctica and drifting northward for about 35-million years in what is referred to as splendid isolation, no other contact was made with any other land mass. Thus Australia remained purely Gondwanan, providing for future insight into the nature of our continent’s flora and fauna. During this period of drifting, the landscape changed as global conditions became colder and drier. Rainforests contracted and became drier forests that evolved with the domination of the eucalypts. Today, less than 1% of the continent contains Australia’s World Heritage Wet Tropical Rainforests with a wealth of biodiversity and ancient plants and animals.
The Daintree Rainforest is considered to be the “Jewel in the Crown” of the Wet Tropics. containing more primitive angiosperms (primitive flowering plant families), each with its own unique consumers. The Daintree is now acknowledged as the longest living, continuously growing rainforest on the planet. Recent studies by Stephan Wanke et al, estimate through DNA testing of fossils, 160 – 170 million years of existence.
Short term, is more difficult. We have found that there are considerable changes occurring from one year to the next. While our average rainfall is 5.5 metres, most years have 4 to 6 metres, we recorded 2.8 metres in 2005 and a massive 7.6 metres in 2010.
When we purchased the property in 1994, the monsoonal periods when cyclones occur were relatively quiet and we did not experience our first direct hit until Cyclone Rona in February, 1999. More recently cyclones Larry, Olga and Australia’s largest cyclone Yasi have impacted. By living in the rainforest we have gained some unique insights into the strength and resilience of our rainforest.
We have used our weblog, Rainforest Revelations, to record events as they happen. A great deal of our discovery has been aided by research and direct communication with scientists who have generously shared their areas of expertise.
We commenced our Rainforest Revelations blog in 2007, using our web site www.ccwild.com with its Knowledge Centre to record and share information. By going back through these records, we can see some differences and can comment on the changes. In our experience, change is constant and variable.