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On the elusive definition of 'Australian rainforest': response to Lynch and Neldner (2000)

Bowman, David (2001). On the elusive definition of 'Australian rainforest': response to Lynch and Neldner (2000). Australian Journal of Botany,49(6):785-787.

Document type: Journal Article
Citation counts: Scopus Citation Count Cited 9 times in Scopus Article | Citations

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Title On the elusive definition of 'Australian rainforest': response to Lynch and Neldner (2000)
Author Bowman, David
Journal Name Australian Journal of Botany
Publication Date 2001
Volume Number 49
Issue Number 6
ISSN 0067-1924   (check CDU catalogue open catalogue search in new window)
Scopus ID 2-s2.0-0035682953
Start Page 785
End Page 787
Total Pages 3
Place of Publication Victoria, Australia
Publisher CSIRO Publishing
HERDC Category C2 - Journal Article - Other contributions to refereed journal (internal)
Abstract Australian botanists have been remarkably unsuccessful in reaching agreement as to what constitutes ‘rainforest’. This issue is not only important for the politics of conservation, where the appellation ‘rainforest’ can provide a powerful defence for vegetation threatened by exploitation (Stott 1999), but is central to understanding the evolution and biogeography of Australian vegetation. Recently, I used the inability of botanists to find an agreed definition of Australian ‘rainforest’ as a starting point to my book that sought to critically investigate the environmental controls of this atypical Australian vegetation type. Conversely, the book also sought to explain why most of the continent’s forests should be dominated by eucalypts (Bowman 2000a, 2000b). Despite reviewing a disparate literature that often used idiosyncratic definitions of ‘rainforest’, I was able to demonstrate that no matter how ‘rainforest’ had been defined by Australian ecologists, it always fell within the broader class of vegetation that is intolerant of recurrent landscape fires. In a detailed commentary on my book, Hill(2000) argued that this conclusion was unsatisfactory because it ‘merely demotes’ rainforest ‘to a ‘fire-prone’ versus ‘not fire prone’ vegetation dichotomy’. Further, he asserted that the corollary of my conclusion is that ‘we can have rainforest where rain does not enter into the equation or we can have rainforest where forest does not enter into the equation’. He argued that the complexity and multifaceted nature of rainforest in Australia demands the placement of ‘artificial boundaries’, although he did not proffer any concrete suggestions as to how this should be done. In this context the recent proposal of Lynch and Neldner (2000) for a ‘workable national definition of rainforest in Australia’ is of considerable interest.
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