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The Great Western Woodlands: A Global Treasure in Our Backyard

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Words: Ana Luíza Muler

The Great Western Woodlands covers almost 16 million hectares (which is the same size as England!) and is located between the Avon Wheatbelt and the Nullarbor Plain in Western Australia (see map below). It is considered the largest remaining area of intact Mediterranean-type ecosystem in the world, and recognised internationally as an area of great biological richness.

IMAGE: Great Western Woodlands; figure used from Evans et al (2015)*

These Woodlands are an ancient landscape (~295 million years old) of ridges and flat valleys, with hot dry summers and frosty winters, where permanent water is minimal. It comprises two climatic and botanical zones: the arid inter-zone and the wetter southwest. These conditions are responsible for making this area extremely biodiverse, supporting more than 3,000 flowering plant species. This represents 20% of Australia’s known flora!

IMAGE: Banded Ironstone Formation (BIF) ranges of Helena Aurora Range | Sara Marques

The Great Western Woodlands contains a high diversity of Eucalyptus species. Out of Australia’s approximately 750 Eucalyptus species, more than 160 of them occur in the Great Western Woodlands. Many of these are endemic, growing nowhere else in the world! Numerous species of mammals, reptiles, frogs and birds are also found in these woodlands.

All this information has been collected with relatively little biological survey work, since not many projects have been carried out to date. Imagine how much more there is in the Great Western Woodlands that we do not know about! The scientific community believes that the known richness of the area will increase significantly as further work is undertaken. However, this will only be possible if this area gets better recognition and protection from the government.

The Wilderness Society has been working towards better protection and management for the Great Western Woodlands for nearly ten years, commencing with our publication of The Extraordinary Nature of the Great Western Woodlands.


* Evans, M.C., Tulloch, A.I.T., Law, E.A., Raiter, K.G., Possingham, H.P., Wilson, K.A., 2015. Clear consideration of costs, condition and conservation benefits yields better planning outcomes. Biol. Conserv. 191, 716–727.