Climate and topography

Australia covers 7682 thousand square kilometers and has an abundance of natural resources, including some of the largest internationally important wetlands, major protected areas and world heritage sites in the world, as shown in Table 25.5. Australia is the lowest, flattest and second driest continent in the world, with rainfall (or the lack of it!) being the single most important factor affecting land use and rural production (ABS 1994b). Australia's hydrology is unique, dominated by low-frequency, high-magnitude floods (Brierley 1995). Droughts are common and sunshine is abundant. Frequent bush-fires play an integral role in the regeneration of Australia's forest areas and biodiversity. During the last glacial retreat Australia's landscape was not reworked, as occurred in the northern hemisphere (Aplin 1999). Australia's climate and geomorphology are thus very different from those of many other industrialized countries and consequently require locally appropriate strategies to promote a sustainable national industrial ecology.

Table 25.5 Natural resources in Australia, 1990

Type of resource

Extent of resource

World rank of extent

Biosphere reserves

12 sites, 47432 sq.km

Wetlands of international importance

39 sites, 44779 sq.km

3rd highest

Major protected areas:

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