Geography of Australia

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Coordinates: 27°S144°E / 27°S 144°E / -27; 144

Geography of Australia
Australia satellite plane.jpg
Continent Australia
Region Oceania
Coordinates 27°00′00″S144°00′00″E / 27.000°S 144.000°E / -27.000; 144.000
Area Ranked 6th
  Total7,686,850 km2 (2,967,910 sq mi)
  Land99%
  Water1%
Coastline25,765 km (16,010 mi)
Bordersnone
Highest point Mount Kosciuszko
2,228 m (7,310 ft)
Lowest point Lake Eyre,
−15 m (−49 ft)
Longest river Murray River,
2,375 km (1,476 mi)
Largest lake Lake Eyre
9,500 km2 (3,668 sq mi)
ClimateMostly desert or semi-arid, south-east and south-west corners: temperate, north: tropical climate, varied between tropical rainforests, grasslands, part desert.
Terrainmostly low plateau with deserts, rangelands and a fertile plain in the southeast
Natural Resourcesminerals, coal, and timber
Natural HazardsCyclones along the northern coasts, severe thunderstorms, droughts, occasional floods, heat waves, and frequent bushfires

The geography of Australia encompasses a wide variety of biogeographic regions being the world's smallest continent but the sixth-largest country in the world. The population of Australia is concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts. The geography of the country is extremely diverse, ranging from the snow-capped mountains of the Australian Alps and Tasmania to large deserts, tropical and temperate forests.

Geography The science that studies the terrestrial surface, the societies that inhabit it and the territories, landscapes, places or regions that form it

Geography is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and planets. The first person to use the word γεωγραφία was Eratosthenes. Geography is an all-encompassing discipline that seeks an understanding of Earth and its human and natural complexities—not merely where objects are, but also how they have changed and come to be.

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Biogeography The study of the distribution of species and ecosystems in geographic space and through geological time

Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species and ecosystems in geographic space and through geological time. Organisms and biological communities often vary in a regular fashion along geographic gradients of latitude, elevation, isolation and habitat area. Phytogeography is the branch of biogeography that studies the distribution of plants. Zoogeography is the branch that studies distribution of animals.

Contents

Neighbouring countries include Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the north, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the French dependency of New Caledonia to the east, and New Zealand to the southeast.

Indonesia Republic in Southeast Asia

Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia, is a country in Southeast Asia, between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It is the world's largest island country, with more than seventeen thousand islands, and at 1,904,569 square kilometres, the 14th largest by land area and the 7th largest in combined sea and land area. With over 261 million people, it is the world's 4th most populous country as well as the most populous Muslim-majority country. Java, the world's most populous island, is home to more than half of the country's population.

East Timor Country in Maritime Southeast Asia

East Timor or Timor-Leste, officially the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, is a country in Maritime Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island surrounded by Indonesian West Timor. Australia is the country's southern neighbour, separated by the Timor Sea. The country's size is about 15,410 km2.

Papua New Guinea constitutional monarchy in Oceania

Papua New Guinea, officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea is a country in Oceania that occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and its offshore islands in Melanesia, a region of the southwestern Pacific Ocean north of Australia. Its capital, located along its southeastern coast, is Port Moresby. The western half of New Guinea forms the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Physical geography

Physical map of Australia Australia relief map.jpg
Physical map of Australia
Australia on the globe (+Antarctic claims hatched) Australia on the globe (Antarctic claims hatched) (Oceania centered).svg
Australia on the globe (+Antarctic claims hatched)

Australia is a country, a continent and an island. It is located in Oceania between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean. It is the sixth largest country in the world with a total area of 7,686,850 square kilometres (2,967,910 sq mi) (including Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Island), making it slightly smaller than the 48 states of the contiguous United States and 31.5 times larger than the United Kingdom.

Country distinct region in geography; a broad term that can include political divisions or regions associated with distinct political characteristics

A country is a region that is identified as a distinct entity in political geography. A country may be an independent sovereign state or part of a larger state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, or a geographic region associated with sets of previously independent or differently associated people with distinct political characteristics. Regardless of the physical geography, in the modern internationally accepted legal definition as defined by the League of Nations in 1937 and reaffirmed by the United Nations in 1945, a resident of a country is subject to the independent exercise of legal jurisdiction. There is no hard and fast definition of what regions are countries and which are not.

Continent Very large landmass identified by convention

A continent is one of several very large landmasses of the world. Generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered from largest in area to smallest, they are: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.

Island Any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water

An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, skerries, cays or keys. An island in a river or a lake island may be called an eyot or ait, and a small island off the coast may be called a holm. A grouping of geographically or geologically related islands is called an archipelago, such as the Philippines.

The Australian mainland has a total coastline length of 35,877 km (22,293 mi) with an additional 23,859 km (14,825 mi) of island coastlines. [1] There are 758 estuaries around the country with most located in the tropical and sub-tropical zones. [2] Australia claims an extensive exclusive economic zone of 8,148,250 square kilometres (3,146,057 sq. mi). This exclusive economic zone does not include the Australian Antarctic Territory (an additional 5,896,500 square kilometres).

Australian Antarctic Territory Australias territorial claim in Antarctica

The Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT) is a part of Antarctica administered by the Australian Antarctic Division, an agency of the federal Department of the Environment and Energy. The territory's history dates to a claim on Enderby Land made by the United Kingdom in 1841, which was subsequently expanded and eventually transferred to Australia in 1933. It is the largest territory of Antarctica claimed by any nation by area. In 1961, the Antarctic Treaty came into force. Article 4 deals with territorial claims, and although it does not renounce or diminish any preexisting claims to sovereignty, it also does not prejudice the position of Contracting Parties in their recognition or non-recognition of territorial sovereignty. As a result, only four other countries; New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France and Norway recognise Australia's claim to sovereignty in Antarctica.

Australia has the largest area of ocean jurisdiction of any country on earth. [3] It has no land borders. The northernmost points of the country are the Cape York Peninsula of Queensland and the Top End of the Northern Territory. The western half of Australia consists of the Western Plateau, which rises to mountain heights near the west coast and falls to lower elevations near the continental centre. The Western Plateau region is generally flat, though broken by various mountain ranges such as the Hamersley Range, the MacDonnell Ranges, and the Musgrave Range. Surface water is generally lacking in the Western Plateau, although there are several larger rivers in the west and north, such as the Murchison, Ashburton, and Victoria rivers.

Cape York Peninsula peninsula in Far North Queensland, Australia

Cape York Peninsula is a large remote peninsula located in Far North Queensland, Australia. It is the largest unspoiled wilderness in northern Australia. The land is mostly flat and about half of the area is used for grazing cattle. The relatively undisturbed eucalyptus-wooded savannahs, tropical rainforests and other types of habitat are now recognized and preserved for their global environmental significance, but native wildlife is threatened by introduced species and weeds. In 1606, Dutch sailor Willem Janszoon on board the Duyfken reached Australia as its first known European explorer, discovering the Cape York Peninsula.

Queensland North-east state of Australia

Queensland is the second-largest and third-most populous state in the Commonwealth of Australia. Situated in the north-east of the country, it is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean. To its north is the Torres Strait, with Papua New Guinea located less than 200 km across it from the mainland. The state is the world's sixth-largest sub-national entity, with an area of 1,852,642 square kilometres (715,309 sq mi).

Top End Region in the Northern Territory, Australia

The Top End of Australia's Northern Territory is a geographical region encompassing the northernmost section of the Northern Territory, which aside from the Cape York Peninsula is the northernmost part of the Australian continent. It covers a rather vaguely defined area of perhaps 245,000 km2 (94,595 sq mi) behind the northern coast from the Northern Territory capital of Darwin across to Arnhem Land with the Indian Ocean on the west, the Arafura Sea to the north, and the Gulf of Carpentaria to the east, and with the almost waterless semi-arid interior of Australia to the south, beyond the huge Kakadu National Park.

The Eastern Highlands, or Great Dividing Range, lie near the eastern coast of Australia, separating the relatively narrow eastern coastal plain from the rest of the continent. These Eastern Australian temperate forests have the greatest relief, the most rainfall, the most abundant and varied flora and fauna, and the densest human settlement.

Great Dividing Range mountain range in the Australian states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria

The Great Dividing Range, or the Eastern Highlands, is Australia's most substantial mountain range and the third longest land-based range in the world. It stretches more than 3,500 kilometres (2,175 mi) from Dauan Island off the northeastern tip of Queensland, running the entire length of the eastern coastline through New South Wales, then into Victoria and turning west, before finally fading into the central plain at the Grampians in western Victoria. The width of the range varies from about 160 km (100 mi) to over 300 km (190 mi). The Greater Blue Mountains Area, Gondwana Rainforests, and Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Areas are located in the range.

Eastern Australian temperate forests

The Eastern Australian temperate forests, or temperate eucalypt forests, are an ecoregion of open forest on uplands starting from the east coast of New South Wales in the South Coast to southern Queensland, Australia. Four distinguishable communities are found within this ecoregion: subtropical rainforest, subtropical dry rainforest, warm temperate rainforest, and cool temperate rainforest, where they may also grade to other biomes, depending on the location.

Between the Eastern Highlands and the Western Plateau, lie the Central Lowlands, which are made up of the Great Artesian Basin and Australia's largest river systems, Murray-Darling Basin and Lake Eyre Basin.

Off the eastern coast of Australia is the world's largest coral reef complex, the Great Barrier Reef. The State of Tasmania, a large and mountainous island, lies south of the south-eastern corner of the Australian mainland. It receives abundant rainfall, and has highly fertile soils particularly in comparison to the mainland.

Geology

Basic geological units of Australia Ausgeolbasic.jpg
Basic geological units of Australia

Australia is the lowest, flattest, and oldest continental landmass on Earth [4] and it has had a relatively stable geological history. Geological forces such as tectonic uplift of mountain ranges or clashes between tectonic plates occurred mainly in Australia's early history, when it was still a part of Gondwana. Its highest peak is Mount Kosciuszko at 2,228 metres (7,310 ft), which is relatively low in comparison to the highest mountains on other continents.

Charles Rowland Twidale estimates that between 10 and 20% of Australia's modern landscapes formed during the Mesozoic when the continent was part of Gondwana. [5]

Australia is situated in the middle of the tectonic plate, and therefore currently has no active volcanism. Minor earthquakes which produce no damage occur regularly, while major earthquakes measuring greater than magnitude 6 occur on average every five years. [6] The terrain is mostly low plateau with deserts, rangelands and a fertile plain in the southeast. Tasmania and the Australian Alps do not contain any permanent icefields or glaciers, although they may have existed in the past. The Great Barrier Reef, by far the world's largest coral reef, lies a short distance off the north-east coast.

Regions

IBRA version 7 map Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia, version 7.pdf
IBRA version 7 map
A map depicting the states and territories of Australia, and the National Highway system Australia regions map.svg
A map depicting the states and territories of Australia, and the National Highway system

The Australian continental landmass consists of six distinct landform divisions. [7] These are:

Hydrology

Relief map showing major rivers and lakes Reliefmap of Australia.png
Relief map showing major rivers and lakes

Because much of Australia's interior is arid, the low average annual rainfall means interior rivers are often dry and lakes empty. The headwaters of some waterways are located in tropical regions where summer rains create a high rate of discharge. Flood events drastically alter the dry environment in which the ecology of central Australia has had to adapt to the boom and bust cycle.

The Great Artesian Basin is an important source of water, the world's largest and deepest fresh water basin. Access to water from the basin has led to the expansion of grazing into areas that were previously far too dry for livestock. Towns and cities across the country sometimes face major water storage and usage crises in which restrictions and other measures are implemented to reduce water consumption. Water restrictions are based on a gradient of activities that become progressively banned as the situation worsens.

Billabong is the Australian name given to the oxbow lakes that can form along a meandering river's course. In a worldwide comparison of height, Australia's waterfalls are relatively insignificant, with the longest drop ranked 135th according to the World Waterfall Database. [8]

Political geography

Australia consists of six states, two major mainland territories, and other minor territories. The states are New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia. The two major mainland territories are the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. Western Australia is the largest state covering just under one third of the Australian landmass, followed by Queensland, South Australia, and New South Wales.

Australia also has several minor territories; the federal government administers a separate area within New South Wales, the Jervis Bay Territory, as a naval base and sea port for the national capital. In addition Australia has the following inhabited, external territories: Norfolk Island, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and several largely uninhabited external territories: Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Coral Sea Islands, and Heard Island and McDonald Islands. Australia also claims a portion of Antarctica as the Australian Antarctic Territory, although this claim is not widely recognized.

Climate

Climate map of Australia Australia map of Koppen climate classification.svg
Climate map of Australia

By far the largest part of Australia is arid or semi-arid. A total of 18% of Australia's mainland consists of named deserts, [9] while additional areas are considered to have a desert climate based on low rainfall and high temperature. Only the south-east and south-west corners have a temperate climate and moderately fertile soil. The northern part of the country has a tropical climate: part is tropical rainforests, part grasslands, and part desert.

Rainfall is highly variable, with frequent droughts lasting several seasons thought to be caused in part by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Occasionally a dust storm will blanket a region or even several states and there are reports of the occasional large tornado. Rising levels of salinity and desertification in some areas is ravaging the landscape.

Australia's tropical/subtropical location and cold waters off the western coast make most of western Australia a hot desert with aridity, a marked feature of the greater part of the continent. These cold waters produce little moisture needed on the mainland. A 2005 study by Australian and American researchers investigated the desertification of the interior, and suggested that one explanation was related to human settlers who arrived about 50,000 years ago. Regular burning by these settlers could have prevented monsoons from reaching interior Australia. The outback covers 70 percent of the continent.

Natural hazards

Cyclones along the northern coasts, severe thunderstorms, droughts, occasional floods, heat waves, and frequent bushfires are natural hazards that are present in Australia.

Environment

Whitehaven Beach in Queensland in October Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island, Queensland.jpg
Whitehaven Beach in Queensland in October

Current environmental issues include: soil erosion from overgrazing, industrial development, urbanization, and poor farming practices; soil salinity rising due to the use of poor quality water; desertification (partly as a result of the introduction by European settlers of Rabbits); introduced pest species; clearing for agricultural purposes threatens the natural habitat of many unique animal and plant species; the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast, the largest coral reef in the world, is threatened by increased shipping and its popularity as a tourist site; limited natural fresh water resources; threats from invasive species.

International agreements:

Westgate Park saltwater lake turns pink in summer. March 2019. Westgate Park saltwater lake turns pink in summer. March 2019.jpg
Westgate Park saltwater lake turns pink in summer. March 2019.
Grassland and mountain ranges in Queensland Kelsey Creek-Dittmer Mountains.jpg
Grassland and mountain ranges in Queensland
The Victorian Alps Mt hotham alpine range scenery.jpg
The Victorian Alps

See also

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References

  1. "Border Lengths – States and Territories". Geoscience Australia . Commonwealth of Australia. 2004. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
  2. Dennison, William C.; Eva G. Abal (1999). Moreton Bay Study: A Scientific Basis for the Healthy Waterways Campaign. Brisbane: South East Queensland Regional Water Quality Management Strategy Team. p. 220. ISBN   0-9586368-1-8.
  3. Non-Fisheries Uses in Australia's Marine Jurisdiction National Marine Atlas. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
  4. Pain, C.F., Villans, B.J., Roach, I.C., Worrall, L. & Wilford, J.R. (2012): Old, flat and red – Australia's distinctive landscape. In: Shaping a Nation: A Geology of Australia. Blewitt, R.S. (Ed.) Geoscience Australia and ANU E Press, Canberra. pp. 227–275 ISBN   978-1-922103-43-7
  5. Rowland, C.R. (1994). "Gondwanan (Late Jurassic and Cretaceous) palaeosurfaces of the Australian craton". Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology . 112 (1–2): 157–186.
  6. Kevin Mccue (26 February 2010). "Land of earthquakes and volcanoes?". Australian Geographic. Archived from the original on 6 March 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  7. Loffler, Ernst; Anneliese Loffler; A. J. Rose; Denis Warner (1983). Australia:Portrait of a continent. Hutchinson Group. p. 18. ISBN   0-09-130460-1.
  8. "Significant Waterfalls". Geoscience Australia . Commonwealth of Australia. Archived from the original on 25 May 2010. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  9. "Deserts". [. Commonwealth of Australia. Archived from the original on 5 December 2009. Retrieved 11 June 2010.

Further reading