Ancient Floras of Western Australia
Author: Steve McLoughlin and Ken McNamara
Western Australia has one of the most diverse floras in the world. From the giant Karri and Tingle forests in the south, to the scattered tropical rainforests in the north; from the incredibly species-rich sand heath flora in the south-west, to the desert floras of the inland parts of the State, more than 12,000 species of vascular plants are estimated to exist. It was a very different world 440 million years ago, when the first animals were struggling on to the land. Fossilised trackways at Kalbarri made by giant scorpion- and centipede-like animals provide evidence that armoured arthropods were the first animals to leave the rivers and lakes to venture onto the land. But was it a lush land swathed in plants, awaiting the first herbivores to graze upon them? Almost certainly not.
On the contrary, it was largely a bare, rocky, windswept world, for the only plants to have gained a foothold before the animals were likely to have been little mosses and liverworts, clinging tenaciously to damp, shady hollows. The higher, or vascular, plants had yet to evolve. When they did appear, some 30 million years later, there followed an enormous diversification and evolutionary radiation, the fallout of which still reverberates around the world today in the profound effects that the flourishing plant communities had on the Earth's climate, on the rates of weathering and erosion, and on the evolution of land animals