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What rainforest is that?

RAINFOREST occurs in patches in every Australian state but South Australia, and in many territories, such as Christmas Island. Across this broad range, they vary significantly in structure and floristic composition, and are subject to a range of formal definitions. To further complicate matters, forests that border rainforest may be called `transitional' -- in time, they will probably become climax rainforest communities. So where do you draw the rainforest boundary?

Not surprisingly, an all-encompassing definition of rainforest has proved elusive. This is a problem, given that accurate recognition of forest types provides a basis for development of forest management policies and strategies. The definition of rainforest has also been disputed legally and during formal enquiries.

Jasmyn Lynch and Dr John Neldner of Environment Australia decided to confront the problems and set about developing three options for a workable national definition of rainforest. Their goal was to come up with a definition that was generally applicable, yet regionally specific. It also needed to account for management implications and community values attributed to rainforest.

Full definitions are provided in the scientists' paper (see below). The first definition forms the core, with additional qualifying criteria included in the second and third definitions. Lynch and Neldner have also constructed a simple key to enable people to systematically distinguish rainforest communities from other forest types, including mangroves. Their preferred definition, if widely adopted, should improve the consistency of management and conservation of our national rainforests.

Lynch AJJ and Neldner VJ (2000) Problems of placing boundaries on ecological continua -options for a workable national rainforest definition in Australia. Australian Journal of Botany, 48:511-530.
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Title Annotation:national rainforest definition
Author:Davidson, Steve
Publication:Ecos
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:8AUSA
Date:Oct 1, 2000
Words:267
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