- Geography of Australia
:"This article deals with the geography of the Commonwealth of Australia. For a treatment of the continent, see
Australia (continent)."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 Australiais concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts. The geography of the country is extremely diverse, ranging from the snowcapped mountainsof Tasmaniato large deserts, tropical and temperate forests.
Neighbouring countries include
Indonesia, East Timorand Papua New Guineato the north, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatuand the French dependency of New Caledoniato the northeast, and New Zealandto the southeast.
Australia is a country, by some considered an island, by some a continent, in
Oceanialocated between the Indian Oceanand the South Pacific Oceanat coord|27|S|144|E|type:country_region:AU. It is the sixth largest country in the world with a total area of 7,686,850 square kilometers (2,967,909 sq. mi) (including Lord Howe Islandand Macquarie Island), making it slightly smaller than the contiguous 48 states of the United Statesand 31.5 times bigger than the United Kingdom.
Australia has a total 25,760 kilometres (16,007 mi) of coastline and claims an extensive
Exclusive Economic Zoneof 8,148,250 square kilometres (3,146,057 sq. mi). This exclusive economic zone does not include the Australian Antarctic Territory. It has no land borders.
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 center. The Western Plateau region is generally flat, though broken by various mountain ranges such as the Hamersley Range, the MacDonnell Range, 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.
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. The Eastern Highlands have the greatest relief, the most rainfall, the most abundant and varied flora and fauna, and the densest human settlement.
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 Basinand Lake Eyre Basin.
Off the eastern coast of Australia is the world's largest coral reef complex, the
Great Barrier Reef. The large and mountainous island of Tasmanialies off the southeastern coast of Australia.
Australia 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. Erosion and weathering have heavily weathered Australia's surface and it is one of the flattest countries in the world.
Australia is situated in the middle of the tectonic plate, and therefore has no active volcanism, although it may sometimes receive minor earthquakes. The terrain is mostly heavily weathered, low
plateauwith deserts, rangelands and a fertile plain in the southeast. Tasmania and the Australian Alpsdo 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. Mount Augustus, in Western Australia, is the largest monolithin the world.
Australia is the lowest, flattest, and oldest continental landmass on Earth. Its highest peak is Mount Kosciuszko (nowrap|2228 m), very small in comparison to other continents. The Australian Continental Landmass consists of 4 distinct landform divisions.Fact|date=February 2007They are:
*The Eastern Highlands (the Great Dividing Range) -
*The South Australian Highlands -
*The Central Lowlands -
*The Western Plateau -
Great Artesian Basin- an important source of water, it is the world's largest and deepest fresh water basin. A number of towns and cities across the country are facing major water storage and usage crisis in which restrictions and other measures are taken to reduce water consumption. Water restrictions are based on a gradient of activities that become progressively banned as the situation worsens.
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 Territoryand the Australian Capital Territory.
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, Heard Island and McDonald Islandsand the Australian Antarctic Territory.
By far the largest part of Australia is
desertor semi-arid– 40% of the landmass is covered by sand dunes. 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 duststorm will blanket a region or even several states and there are reports of the occasional large tornado. Rising levels of salinityand 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 precious little moisture needed on the mainland. A
2005study by Australian and American researchers [http://www.gsajournals.org/gsaonline/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1130%2FG21033.1] 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.
Natural resources include:
bauxite, coal, ironore, copper, tin, gold, silver, uranium, nickel, tungsten, mineralsands, lead, zinc, diamonds, natural gas, petroleum.
*"arable land:" 6%
*"permanent crops:" 0%
*"permanent pastures:" 54%
*"forests and woodland:" 19%
*"other:" 21% (1993 est.)
Oil and Gas: Australia saw its oil production drop more than 14 percent in
2003, almost twice the average decline rate since it peaked in 2000. An oil shaledeposit called the Stuart Deposit is located near Gladstone. It has a total resource of 2.6 billion barrels and the capacity to produce more than 200,000 barrels each day.
Irrigated land: 21,070 km² (1993 est.)
Cyclones along the northern coasts; severe thunderstorms, droughts and occasional floods; frequent bushfires.
Current issues: 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
*"party to:" Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban 1963, Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 1994, Wetlands, Whaling
*"signed, but not ratified:" Climate Change-
Kyoto Protocol, Desertification
Deserts of Australia
Ecoregions in Australia
Extreme points of Australia
List of islands of Australia
List of lakes in Australia
List of mountains in Australia
List of regions in Australia
List of rivers of Australia
List of valleys of Australia
*List of wettest known tropical cyclones in Australia
Protected areas of Australia
*Miller, Gifford et al. " [http://www.gsajournals.org/gsaonline/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1130%2FG21033.1 Sensitivity of the Australian Monsoon to insolation and vegetation: Implications for human impact on continental moisture balance] ". Geology Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 65–68.
*CIA WFB 2000
*cite web | title=Highest Mountains | work=National Mapping - Fab Facts, Landforms, Australian Mountains | url=http://www.ga.gov.au/education/facts/landforms/highmtns.htm | accessmonthday=July 7 | accessyear=2005
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