There have been rainforests in the mountains of tropical Queensland
for over 100 million years. Even during the last Ice Age, when the
climate was far drier, small pockets survived in mountain gullies and
other wet areas. When the Ice Age ended, about 15,000 years ago,
rainfall increased and the forests expanded to cover much larger areas.
Australia's rainforests have survived from the time when the first flowering
plants appeared on Earth and are home to an amazing variety of species.
The forests of Europe and North America date from only 15.000 years ago
and are impoverished in comparison. Their plants and animals are
newcomers that moved north to colonise land made available by the
retreating glaciers of the Ice Age.
Like the Great Barrier Reef, Australiaâ€™s tropical rainforests are veritable
wonderlands. They are luxuriant places where one form of forest gives way
to another in rapid succession. Walk along a forest path and you will pass
gullies stacked with slender palms . Further on, you will come to trees with
huge buttress roots. Turn a corner and you'll see trees bedecked with
orchids. Iridescent butterflies flutter in clearings. Ferns cling to branches.
Waterfalls cascade down rocks. Tree ferns tower above your head and
ancient cycads line your path.
The forest birds are as colourful as the butterflies. Many have the raucous
voices that film producers like to use in their jungle movies. It's not difficult to
picture Tarzan and Jane swinging on jungle creepers.