The Daintree Rainforest is a tropical rainforest on the north east coast of Queensland, Australia, north of Mossman and Cairns. At around 1,200 km2 (460 sq mi), the Daintree is the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest on the Australian continent. Along the coastline north of the Daintree River, tropical rainforest grows right down to the edge of the sea.
The rainforest area, named after Richard Daintree, is loosely defined as the area between the Mossman Gorge and the Bloomfield River. The name is believed to have come about as a result of conservationists, who during the building of a coastal road linking the Daintree area near Cape Tribulation to Cooktown (the Bloomfield Road) in the early 1980s proposed the 'Greater Daintree National Park' which would have encompassed all of the forests in the area, including the Cape Tribulation and Daintree National Parks. Recent extensions to the Daintree National Park have realised this.
The area includes the Daintree National Park, some areas of State Forest, and some privately owned land, including a residential community of upwards of 500 people. Some of the privately owned land north of the Alexandra Range is being progressively purchased for conservation purposes under a $15 million government scheme involving equal contributions from the municipal (Cairns Regional Council, which includes the former Douglas Shire council), State (Queensland) and Australian Federal governments. As of May 2011, 72% of the properties earmarked for buyback or compensation had been secured. These 'buyback' areas of tropical rainforest included 215 blocks of land purchased by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, and 13 purchased by private conservation agencies.
The Daintree Rainforest contains 30% of the frog, reptile and marsupial species in Australia, and 65% of Australia's bat and butterfly species. 18% of bird species in the country can be found in this area. There are also over 12,000 species of insects. All of this diversity is contained within an area that takes up 0.2% of the landmass of Australia. Part of the forest is protected by the Daintree National Park and drained by the Daintree River. The roads north of the river wind through areas of lush forest, and have been designed to minimize impacts on this ancient ecosystem the rainforest is found 16 degree to 20 degree south and 145 degree to 20 degree east.
Wet Tropics World Heritage Site
Much of the Daintree Rainforest is part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site, being listed by UNESCO in 1988 in recognition of its universal natural values highlighted by the rainforest.
The Australian Government lists these attributes, amongst others, as evidence for the Wet Tropics' World Heritage values, including the Daintree Rainforest:
They preserve major stages of the earth's evolutionary history -
- ancient plants representing some of the earliest land plants, the Psilotopsida (whisk ferns) and the Lycopsida (club mosses or tassel ferns);
- 7 ancient families of true ferns, including the Marattiaceae (giant or king ferns), Osmundaceae (royal ferns), Schizaeaceae (comb ferns) and Gleicheniaceae (coral ferns);
- fern genera of East Gondwanan origins, including Polystichum (shield ferns), Leptopteris, Todea, Tmesipteris (fork ferns), Lycopodiella and Huperzia (club mosses and tassel ferns);
- the ancient, fern-like cycad Bowenia spectabilis (zamia fern) and other cycads including Cycas, and the giant Lepidozamia hopei (zamia palm);
- ancient conifers such as Podocarpus (plum pine or brown pine), Prumnopitys (brown pine or southern yew), Araucaria (hoop and bunya pines), and Agathis (kauri) which are living counterparts of Jurassic-age fossils (i.e., age of the dinosaurs);
- 12 primitive angiosperm (flowering plant) families, including small, primitive, relict angiosperm families such as Austrobaileyaceae, Idiospermaceae, Eupomatiaceae and Himantandraceae;
- relict angiosperm plant families that are known as fossils from the Cretaceous (last age of the dinosaurs) including Cunoniaceae, Proteaceae (banksia and macadamia family), Winteraceae, Myrtaceae (eucalypt and lilly pilly), Monimiaceae, Rutaceae, Sapindaceae, Aquifoliaceae (holly family), Chloranthaceae, Trimeniaceae, Epacridaceae (heath family), Olacaceae and Loranthaceae (mistletoes);
- 153 genera in 43 families of angiosperms believed to represent the longest continuous history associated with the Gondwanan landmass.
They preserve unique, rare or superlative natural phenomena, formations or features of exceptional natural beauty –
- exceptional coastal scenery unusual in the world (and Australia) where tropical rainforest extends to white sandy beaches with fringing coral reefs just offshore;
- rugged mountain peaks and gorges with swiftly flowing rivers and spectacular waterfalls (e.g., Thornton Peak, Mossman Gorge, Roaring Meg Falls);
- extensive vistas of undisturbed forest and valleys.
The Daintree rainforest contains important and significant habitats for conservation of biological diversity. Approximately 430 species of birds live among the trees. The primitive flowering plants Austrobaileya scandens and Idiospermum australiense are also endemic to the Daintree.
Daintree Important Bird Area
The Daintree Important Bird Area (IBA) is a 2656 km2 tract of land that largely coincides with the northernmost part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site. It encompasses, or overlaps, the Black Mountain, Cedar Bay, Daintree, Mount Windsor and Mowbray National Parks. It has been identified as an IBA by BirdLife International because it supports a population of Southern Cassowaries. It also contains populations of the locally endemic Tooth-billed and Golden Bowerbirds, Lovely Fairywrens, Macleay's, Bridled, Yellow-spotted and White-streaked Honeyeaters, Fernwrens, Atherton Scrubwrens, Mountain Thornbills, Chowchillas, Bower's Shrike-thrushes, Pied Monarchs, Victoria's Riflebirds and Pale-yellow Robins.
- Wilderness Society – The Daintree: http://www.wilderness.org.au/regions/queensland/daintree
- Queensland Environment and Resource Management. Wet Tropics national parks: http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/parks_and_forests/world_heritage_areas/wet_tropics/)
- Daintree buyback. Cairns Regional Council. http://www.cairns.qld.gov.au/building-planning-and-infrastructure/strategic-land-use-planning/daintree-buyback
- Rainforest Rescue. Daintree Buy Back & Protect Forever project. http://www.rainforestrescue.org.au/ourprojects/save-a-rainforest-daintree.html
- Tisdell, C. and Wilson, C. World heritage listings of Australian natural sites: tourism stimulus and its economic value. Economic Analysis and Policy, Vol 32 (2).
- UNESCO Wet Tropics of Queensland: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/486
- Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage: http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/places/world/wet-tropics/index.html
- BirdLife International. (2011). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Daintree. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 2011-12-17.
- "IBA: Daintree". Birdata. Birds Australia. Retrieved 2011-12-17.