Proceedings of an International Year of Mountains conference

Australian Alps Liaison Committee, 2003
ISBN 0-646-42204-9

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Introduction

The Australian Alps are outlier mountains in many ways. Unlike most mountains of the world, they are tectonically inactive and have been only weakly influenced by Quaternary glaciations. In consequence they sit solidly rounded, soil-mantled rather than constituted of crumbling rock and tearing ice. Their alpine areas are remote from all others in the world except for Tasmania and New Zealand, with which they share small proportions of species, and a few ecosystems. The tall alpine herbfields, heaths and short tussock grasslands characteristic of the Australian Alps have few analogues elsewhere in the world. Even the soils are unusual. Their highlight is the alpine humus soil: acid, organic rich and teeming with earth worms, formed on a mixture of weathered rock and loess. The dominance of the sparse-crowned eucalypts from the climatic treeline to coastal dunes, with their biodiverse understoreys of scleromorphic shrubs, grasses and graminoids, and their even more diverse fauna, rich in marsupials and moths, makes the Australian Alps even more globally unusual.