Australia is the sixth largest country in the world, and the flattest, driest, and least densely populated of the continents. It covers more than 7.5 million square kilometres, and stretches more than 4,000 kilometres across from coast to coast, resulting in a climate that ranges from tropical in the north to temperate in the south-east, and – over the majority of the continent – arid.
It is also one of the oldest continents on earth, and its landforms are the result of many millions of years of erosion by wind and water.
Once joined to Antarctica, South America and Africa as part of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, it drifted north over aeons carrying with it a cargo of weird and wonderful plants, animals and other life-forms that evolved over millions of years into a diversity of habitats, species and genotypes found nowhere else on earth. It is estimated that up to 10% of all species on earth occur in Australia, and it is one of the world’s “megadiverse” countries (Steffen et al. 2009). For example there are 1,350 terrestrial vertebrate animals found nowhere else, and more than 90% of the 17,580 species of flowering plants are endemic.
The marine and aquatic diversity of Australia is equally high. With a coastline of more than 34,000 km (excluding off-shore islands, SOE 2006) this is no wonder.
All of this gives ecologists in Australia a lot to do! The Ecological Society of Australia is the largest professional scientific society in Australia, with members located all around the country and overseas. Our members work in universities and other research institutions, government departments, private industry and consultancies. We aim to:
- To promote the scientific study of all organisms in relation to their environment.
- To promote the application of ecological principles in the development, use and conservation of Australia's natural resources.
- To advise governmental and other agencies in matters where the application of ecological principles may be of assistance.
- To foster the conservation and ecological management of native biota, their diversity, ecological function, and interaction with the environment .
- To facilitate the dissemination and exchange of ideas and information about ecology both among ecologists, with other professional disciplines and the public; and encourage high professional and ethical standards among our members and other ecologists.
- We do this through publications, events and activities and conferences.