Research and a Learning Landscape

Researchers installing nesting boxes
Photographer: WTMA

The Wet Tropics of Queensland is renowned for its biological diversity, exquisite beauty, Aboriginal cultures and economic productivity. 

The natural landscapes and plants and wildlife are a valuable asset for conservation, scientific research, tourism and recreation, and community education. They have also been the home of Rainforest Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years.

If we are to protect the Wet Tropics forests and their wildlife for future generations, we must first understand them. Research is vital to help us learn more about the extraordinary diversity of animals and plants and how they interact. Biological and social scientists also research the many changes and pressures on our natural systems in the modern world and contribute enormously to how the World Heritage Area and surrounds are managed. Research also plays a significant role in educating the community about their natural environment and how best to live with it - to conserve, appreciate and enjoy it.

Rainforests throughout the world are contested landscapes as they are cleared for timber and agriculture and suffer the intrusions of development and roads. Research is vital to help us appreciate their intrinsic worth and their value to the community and how best to mitigate the numerous threats that come with development and interaction with people.


Australia's Wet Tropics - an outstanding learning landscape

Australia's Wet Tropics - an outstanding learning landscape promotes the Wet Tropics as:

  • an internationally significant biodiversity hotspot - a mega-diverse region
  • an ideal place for research on rainforest, the reef, Rainforest Aboriginal culture and tourism
  • a region full of collaborative research opportunities
  • an area where research will form the basis of World Heritage management and policy
  • a centre of high quality research with established research organisations, programs and infrastructure.

Australia's Learning Landscapes
Photographer: WTMA

More about a Learning Landscape

Read about Wet Tropics research on our Learning Landscape eBulletin page.

Student Research Grant recipient David Tng

Research and the World Heritage nomination

Scientific research was the cornerstone of the nomination of the Wet Tropics of Queensland. At a time when the forests were being rapidly logged, researchers such as Len Webb and Geoff Tracey pioneered new ways of looking at rainforest and fostered an appreciation of its many variations and habitats. Their work also identified the ancient Gondwanan origins of much of the rainforest which was always thought to have originated solely from Asian forests.

Len Webb laid the first foundations for the study of the Wet Tropics rainforests in the 1960s when he published the first systematic classification of Australian rainforest vegetation from Tasmania to the monsoon tropics. He also considered the environmental forces that limited the distribution of rainforest. Webb and Tracey undertook an overall classification and mapping of the region’s rainforests in 1975 and Tracey published detailed descriptions in 1982.

In 1984 the Australian Heritage Commission engaged the Rainforest Conservation Society of Queensland to evaluate the international conservation significance of the area between Townsville and Cooktown. Their report concluded that ‘From the information compiled in this study, we conclude that the Wet Tropics region of North-East Queensland is one of the most significant regional ecosystems in the world. It is of outstanding scientific importance and natural beauty and adequately fulfils all four of the criteria defined by the World Heritage Convention for inclusion in the World Heritage List'.

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