Island Jewels

by Ian Abbott &
Andrew A. Burbidge

Island Jewels

The Natural History of Western Australia’s Islands

Western Australia has over 3,500 islands, the largest number of any Australian state or territory.

Whilst most Western Australians are aware of the existence of the State’s islands, some of which can be seen from the mainland coast, few people have any personal experience of the majority of them. Indeed, it is most likely that only three of the islands will have been visited by tourists – Rottnest and Penguin (near Perth) and Woody (near Esperance) – as these islands are readily accessible by comfortable commercial transport. This book, comprehensively researched by two leading authorities in island research, offers insights into the natural history of WA’s islands. It is the first book to accomplish this. The following questions are addressed and answered:

  • How and why do islands differ from the adjacent coastal mainland?
  • When and how did WA’s islands form?
  • Why and how did Aboriginal people use islands? Why were some unvisited?
  • Who were the first European visitors and what did they do?
  • How did the flora and fauna of islands come to be known to naturalists?
  • Which natural factors have shaped the biological characteristics of islands?
  • How have species adapted to island life?
  • What is the value of islands for nature conservation?
  • What are some of the notable species found on WA islands?
  • How have humans degraded some islands, and how are these detrimental changes now being remedied?
  • How will the future, including climate change, affect the vegetation, plant and animal species now found on islands?
  • How well have government policy and actions influenced the preservation of nature and its management on islands?

Western Australia is in the unique position of having a globally-significant heritage of continental islands unaffected by ice and to a large extent by human contact. Many of these islands retain large breeding populations of seabirds, seals and sea turtles. All have elements of an ancient fauna and flora that characterise the biota of Australia: marsupials, parrots, endemic genera of plants, etc. These islands, as well as being a critical part of the reserve system conserving WA’s biodiversity, provide attractive opportunities for scientists to study the ecology, genetics, phylogeny, and biogeography of species. In particular, archipelagoes constitute natural laboratories where the processes of immigration and extinction have acted to unequal extents, resulting in unique combinations of species of plant, reptile, terrestrial bird, and mammal species. Some of these islands provide attractive opportunities for tourism.

This book will be a valuable addition to the library of anyone interested in the value and conservation of islands and the wider environment.

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