Australasia ecozone

Photograph of Earth showing the location of the Australasia ecozone

The Australasian ecozone covers Australia, New Guinea and the easternmost islands of the Indonesian archipelago, including Sulawesi and the Lesser Sundas. New Zealand is also part of this ecozone.

Other Ecozones

The boundary between Australasia and Indomalaya follows the Wallace Line, named after the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace who noted the differences in fauna between the islands either side of the line. The Islands to the west, including Java, Bali, Borneo, and the Philippines share a similar fauna with East Asia, including tigers, rhinoceros, and apes. During the ice ages, sea levels were lower, exposing the continental shelf that links these islands to one another and to Asia, and allowed Asian land animals to inhabit these islands.

To the East, Australia and New Guinea are distinguished by marsupial mammals, including kangaroos, possums, and wombats. The last remaining monotreme mammals, the echidnas and the platypus, are endemic to Australasia. Prior to the arrival of humans about 50,000 years ago, only about one-third of Australasian mammal species were placental.

Habitats in this ecozone

  • European beechwood in pale autumnal sunlight Broadleaf forest

    Broadleaf forests are the dominant habitat of the UK and most of temperate northern Europe. There's little left of Britain's ancient wildwood, but isolated pockets of oak, beech and mixed deciduous and evergreen woodlands are scattered across the continent, and dictate its biodiversity.

  • The coastal landscape of Cornwall, England Coastal

    Coastal cliffs are the rocky land edges that face the sea. These are complex and diverse habitats that lie above the water line, where exposure to salty spray, wind, sun and rain all play their part, as does the type of rock.

  • A desert sand dune landscape in Namibia Desert

    Desert and dry scrubland describes any area that receives less than 250mm of rainfall a year. Not just the endless, baking sand dunes of popular conception, it includes arid areas in temperate regions.

  • Life around the roots of red mangrove trees Mangroves

    Mangrove forests grow on tropical coasts with soft soils and are flooded twice daily by the tide. They are important nursery areas for many species of fish.

  • Mountain vegetation in South Africa Mediterranean forest

    Mediterranean forest includes the fynbos of South Africa, the matorral of Chile and forests in parts of California. Hot, dry summers, contrast with much milder, wetter winters.

  • A poppy field in the mountains of Italy Mountain grassland

    Mountain grasslands such as those in the Ethiopian highlands, on the Tibetan Plateau and up in the Andes, include the alpine tundra above the treeline as well as grasslands below it. These high altitude grasslands often exist as isolated 'islands' in a sea of another habitat type.

  • The rainforest of Borneo Rainforest

    Rainforests are the world's powerhouses, the most vital habitats on the planet. Characterised by high rainfall, they only cover 6% of the Earth across the tropical regions, but they contain more than half of its plant and animal species.

  • An Argentinian meadow in summer Temperate grassland

    Temperate grasslands include the prairies of North America, the steppes of Russia and the pampas of Argentina. Summers here are mild to hot and the winters can sometimes be very cold – for instance, blizzards can blanket the great plains of the United States.

  • Tropical dry forest of Madagascar Tropical dry forest

    Tropical dry forests, in contrast to rainforest, have to survive a long dry season each year, so the predominantly deciduous trees shed their leaves to cope with it. Sunlight can then reach the ground, so the season that's bad for the trees is good for the forest floor.

  • Acacia trees on the grassland of the Serengeti Tropical grassland

    Tropical grasslands include the savanna usually associated with Africa, and savanna-type grasslands found in India, Australia, Nepal and the Americas. They are characterised by drought-resistant shrubs and grasses, dotted with trees such as acacias or baobabs.

  • Alaskan tundra in autumn colours Tundra

    Tundra is the cold, treeless region around the poles that has permafrost as one of its defining features. Even at the height of summer, the soil a few centimetres under the surface remains frozen.

Habitat distribution

Map showing the location of the Australasia ecozone

Key:

What lives here?

Mammals

Birds

Reptiles

Cartilaginous fish

Ray-finned fishes

Insects

Arachnids

Crabs, shrimp and krill

Snails and slugs

Starfish

Bivalvia

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