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Kakadu National Park, Arnhem Hwy, Darwin, NT, Australia

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List World Heritage List
Class Natural
Legal Status Declared property (01/12/1981)
Place ID 105041
Place File No 7/04/001/0014
Statement of Significance
For the official statement of Outstanding Universal Value see the UNESCO site http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/147
 
Official Values
Criterion (I) Masterpiece of human creative genius
The rock art sites of Kakadu National Park represent a unique artistic achievement, spanning a continuum tens of thousands of years to the present and continuing to maintain an important function in the cultural and social aspects of contemporary indigenous communities. The World Heritage values include:
  • rock art sites which:
  • in themselves represent a unique artistic achievement and which comprise one of the greatest concentrations of rock art in the world;
  • are of great antiquity and which represent a continuous temporal span from the Pleistocene Epoch to the present;
  • exhibit great diversity, both in space and through time, yet embody a continuous cultural development; and
  • demonstrate in the record of the art sites a living cultural tradition which continues today.
Criterion (IX) Outstanding examples of on-going evolution
Kakadu National Park is an outstanding example representing significant ongoing geological processes, particularly associated with the effects of sea-level change in northern Australia, biological evolution and people's interaction with their natural environment. The World Heritage values include:
  • the coastal riverine and estuarine flood plains of the South Alligator, West Alligator, East Alligator, and Wildman rivers, which include freshwater flood plains with tidal river channels;
  • the relatively undisturbed nature of the river systems and their associated catchments;
  • the mangrove swamps, including remnants of more extensive swamps which formed between 6500 and 7000 years ago on the coastal fringe and plains;
  • the spatial zonation of the coastal and floodplain vegetation which exemplifies a vegetation succession linked to processes of sea-level change and sedimentation and extends from lower intertidal mangroves to estuarine mangroves to floodplain vegetation;
  • the range of the environmental gradients and contiguous, diverse landscapes, extending from the sandstone plateaus and escarpments through lowland areas and wetlands to the coast, which have contributed to the evolution of high levels of endemism and species diversity;
  • the scale and integrity of the landscapes and environments with extensive and relatively unmodified vegetation cover and largely intact faunal composition which are important in relation to ongoing evolutionary processes in an intact landscape;
  • the high spatial heterogeneity of habitats;
  • the high diversity and abundance of plant and animal species, many of which are adapted to low-nutrient conditions (including more than 1600 plant species, over one-quarter of Australia's known terrestrial mammal, about one-third of the total bird fauna and freshwater fish species, about 15 per cent of Australia reptile and amphibian species and a high diversity of insect species);
  • the Aboriginal archaeological remains and rock art which represent an outstanding example of people's interaction with the natural environment and bear remarkable and valuable witness to past environments in northern Australia and to the interaction of people with these environments;
  • the ongoing, active management of the landscapes by Aboriginal people through the use of fire, including fire-assisted hunting and the creation of environmental mosaics which contribute to species diversity, provide an important example of people's interaction with the environment: and
  • the diverse range of habitats and vegetation types including:
  • open forest and woodlands;
  • lowland and sandstone (Allosyncarpa ternata closed forest) rainforests;
  • shrubland and heath;
  • wetland, riverine, and coastal environments;
  • mangroves and floodplains.
Criterion (VI) Directly associated with events or living traditions
Kakadu National Park is associated with events, ideas and beliefs of outstanding universal significance. The World Heritage values include:
  • cultural sites which:
  • form a rich collection of places imbued with strong spiritual associations relating to creator beings and are connected to the continuing practice of traditional beliefs and practices;
  • demonstrate in the art and the archaeological record a living cultural tradition that continues today;
  • are of great antiquity and represent a continuous temporal span from the Pleistocene Epoch to the present;
  • include archaeological sites which are currently some of the oldest dated within Australia;
  • exhibit great diversity, both in space and through time, yet embody a continuous cultural development;
  • preserve a record, not only in the form of archaeological sites but also through rock art, of human responses and adaptation to major environmental change including rising sea levels; and
  • preserve fragile items of material culture not commonly found within other archaeological sites.
Criterion (VII) Contains superlative natural phenomena
Kakadu National Park has features of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance and contains superlative natural phenomena. The World Heritage values include:
  • the expansive and varied natural landscapes which include coastal areas, lowlands, wetlands, floodplains, plateau complexes, escarpments and outliers;
  • the exceptional natural beauty of viewfields;
  • the relatively undisturbed nature of the landscape;
  • the unusual mix and diversity of habitats found in close proximity; and
  • the large scale of undisturbed landscape.
Criterion (X) Important habitats for conservation of biological diversity
Kakadu National Park's large size, its diversity of habitats and its position in an area of northern Australia subjected to considerably less disturbance by European settlement than many other parts of the continent have resulted in the protection and conservation of many significant habitats, including those where threatened species of plants and animals of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science and conservation still survive. The World Heritage values include:
  • the wide range of natural habitats, including:
  • open forest and woodlands;
  • monsoon rainforest areas;
  • heaths and shrublands;
  • freshwater wetlands;
  • mangrove and estuarine areas;
  • foreshore and beach areas;
  • significant plant associations, including those associated with Eucalyptus koolpinensis, the heath vegetation on the margins of the Marrawal Plateau, and woodland containing Terminalia platyptera on Snake Plains;
  • plant species of conservation significance (including endemic species and relict species) such as Arthrochilus byrnessii, Cycas conferta, Desmodium sp. 2, Eucalyptus koolpinensis, Hildegardia australiensis, Micraira spp., Neobyrnesia suberosa, Pityrodia spp., Plectrachne aristiglumis, Triodia radonensis, Typhonium russell-smithii;
  • animal species of conservation significance, including:
  • mammals (such as Calaby's mouse Pseudomys calabyi, Kakadu dunnart Sminthopsis sp. Nov., nabarlek Petrogale concinna, false water rat Xeromys myoides, golden backed tree rat Mesembriomys macrurus, and ghost bat Macroderma gigas);
  • reptiles (such as the pig-nosed turtle Carettochelys insculpta, Pacific or olive ridley turtle Lepidochelys olivacea, green turtle Chelonia mydas, loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta, saltwater crocodile Crocodylus porosus and freshwater crocodile C. johnstoni);
  • birds (such as the Gouldian finch Erythrura gouldiae, partridge pigeon Geophaps smithii, hooded parrot Psephotus dissimilis, little tern Sterna albifrons, masked owl - northern subspecies Tyto novaehollandiae kimberli and red goshawk Erythrotriorchis radiatus);
  • invertebrates (such as crustaceans of the plateau and escarpment streams, especially the families Amphisopodidae, Atyidae and Palaemonidae);
  • fish (such as two newly discovered taxa of goby, including the new genus Cryptocentrus, and a speartooth shark Gyphis sp);
  • species which have experienced range reductions (such as the magpie goose Anseranas semipalmata, Gouldian finch Erythrura gouldiae, partridge pigeon Petrophassa smithii, pale field rat Rattus tunneyi and Leichhardt's grasshopper Petasida ephippigera); and
  • endemic species and relict species (including the ghost bat Macroderma gigas, the orange horseshoe bat Rhinonicteris aurantius, saltwater crocodile Crocodylus porosus, freshwater crocodile C. johnstoni, and the pignosed turtle Carettochelys insculpta).
Description
Physical features
Relative tectonic stability has led to the exhibition, within Kakadu National Park, of features of great antiquity as well as modern, dynamic land forms. As a result of its great age (over 2,000 million years), much of the park is characterised by land forms and soils that are deeply weathered, leached and infertile. The park comprises four major land forms: Arnhem land plateau and escarpment complex; southern hills and basins; Koolpinyah surface; and coastal riverine plains. The western rim of the Arnhem land plateau, with its sheer and spectacular escarpments, waterfalls, overhangs and caves, is within the park. The escarpment ranges in height from about 30m to 330m over a distance of some 500km. It is formed by the relatively resistant quartz sandstone of the Middle Proterozoic Kombolgie Formation unconformably overlying less resistant rocks. Where these underlying rocks are weakened by erosion, the sandstone is undermined and eventually collapses. This has produced a complex relief with a large number of overhangs and caverns that house much of the Aboriginal rock art of the region. As a consequence of this intricate relief, there are numerous micro-habitats, and the biota of the plateau is ecologically very diverse, containing a distinctive assemblage of species, some of which are relict or restricted. Aquatic escarpment habitats are also important as dry season refuges for freshwater fish, including several species with restricted distributions. On the plateau the stripping away of most of the Late Cretaceous rocks has produced a rugged landscape of resistant, flat-bedded quartzose sandstones, criss-crossed by weaker areas that have been deeply eroded into a maze of narrow valleys and gorges. Soil is absent from large areas of the plateau, the surface being bare pavements and sandstone outcrops. Where soil is present on top of the plateau, it amounts to skeletal veneers of sand seldom more than 150cm deep. There are, however, pockets of deeper soil in gorges in the plateau, which support rain forest communities with significant relict species. The southern hills and basins occur mostly in the south of the park. The hills form a modern-day erosional surface comprising a sequence of rocky strike ridges flanked by narrow talus slopes or pediments, and separated from each other by alluvial flats of variable width. The Koolpinyah surface, a series of gently undulating lowland plains, stretches from Darwin to the Arnhem land escarpment. The coastal riverine plains are associated with the tidal reaches of all the major river systems in the park. They are recent land forms, and are still actively forming in the park. In addition to the four major landforms, Kakadu National Park contains approximately 473 sq. km of coastal, intertidal and estuarine areas and two islands (DASET, 1991).
Climate
The tropical monsoonal climate, with its marked wet and dry seasons, is the major factor determining the surface water hydrology, vegetation and, over time, the land forms of the park region. More than 90% of annual rainfall occurs in the wet season, between November and April, which is characterised by localised thunderstorms, monsoonal depressions that cause heavy rains, and tropical cyclone activity. Rainfall intensities in the region are among the highest in Australia. There is virtually no rain in the May to October dry season; it is effectively a period of annual drought. In general, mean annual rainfall decreases from the coast towards the interior, ranging from 1565mm to about 1100-1200mm in the southern part. Humidity is highest from January to March, and temperatures are high all year, with monthly average maxima varying from 33 degrees C in July to 42 degrees C in October. The markedly seasonal rainfall pattern produces two dramatically different periods in surface water flow. In the wet season, rivers of the park carry large amounts of water, and extensive lowland areas are flooded. By the late dry season, water flow has ceased in the upper reachesof the rivers, leaving a series of shallow billabongs in an otherwise dry river bed (DASET, 1991; Braithwaite and Werner, 1987).
Vegetation
The Alligator Rivers region, which encompasses the park, is considered to be the most floristically diverse area of monsoonal northern Australia. More than 1,600 plant species have been recorded from the park, reflecting the variety of major land form types and associated plant habitats in the region. Of particular importance is the diverse flora of the sandstone formations of the western Arnhem land escarpment, where many species are endemic. Based on recent surveys and records of the Northern Territory, some 58 plant species occurring in the park are considered to be of major conservation significance. The vegetation can be classified into 13 broad categories, seven of which are dominated by a distinct species of Eucalyptus. Other categories comprise: mangrove; samphire; lowland rain forest; paperbark swamp; seasonal flood plain and sandstone rain forest. These categories are described in detail in DASET (1991).
The seven Eucalyptus-dominated open-forest and woodland categories, typically with a tall (1-2m) grassy understorey, comprise the dominant vegetation in the park. Mangroves are distributed extensively along the tidal reaches of all major coastal river systems in the park. Samphire (scattered chenopod low shrubland), a sparse, low, shrubby vegetation, occurs on tidal, typically fine clay, salt flats between mangroves and the supratidal fringe. Lowland rain forests occur as small habitat pockets in Eucalyptus or paperbark-dominated vegetation. In Kakadu they occupy two distinct habitats: rain forest associated with sites of perennial moisture at springs and seepages; and rain forest on freely draining landforms. Paperback swamp (dominated by one or more tall Melaleuca species) covers extensive areas of the seasonally inundated freshwater flood plains. The vegetation of seasonally inundated flood plains changes more or less continuously throughout the wet-dry cycle, ranging from open water communities associated with permanent water bodies to transient, ephemeral communities of herbs, grasses and sedges associated with seasonally inundated, cracking clay soils that dry out completely in the dry season (DASET, 1991; ANPWS, 1991). A list of plant species of particular conservation significance is given in DASET (1991).
Fauna
The scientific and conservation value of the fauna of the park is of national and international significance. It is diverse and representative of a large area of northern Australia, and includes regional endemics. The 64 native mammal species known from the park comprise slightly more than one-quarter of the total number of known terrestrial mammal species in Australia, and include 26 of the 65 species of Australian bats. Mammals listed as globally threatened include dugong Dugong dugon (V) and ghost vampire bat Macroderma gigas(V).
Reptile species total 128, comprising two crocodile species, three species of sea turtle, 77 lizard species (15 species of gecko, four legless lizards, 10 dragons, 11 monitors and 37 species of skink) and 39 species of snake. Those listed as globally threatened include estuarine crocodile Crocodylus porosus (V), loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta (V), green turtle Chelonia mydas (E) and hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata (E).
The extremely rich bird fauna of 274 species, includes 33% of those found in Australia. Red goshawk Accipiter radiatus, Gouldian finch Chloebia gouldiae and hooded parrot Psephotus dissimilis occur within the region, status unknown.
The 1986 Plan of Management identified 3% of mammal species, 10% of birds, 9% of reptiles and 4% of amphibians occurring in the park as having a small range, high habitat specificity and low population density, and should be considered generally rare. A further 21 notable species have since been identified on the basis of the species' rarity, restricted range, taxonomic interest, uncertain or declining range or substantial range extension (ANPWS, 1991). A list of species of particular conservation importance is given in DASET (1991).
 
History
The park contains many richly decorated Aboriginal caves with a number of significant art styles, concentrated along the Arnhem land escarpment, some dating back 18,000 years. The area is outstanding in the antiquity and quality of its 1,000 archaeological sites and Aboriginal culture and estimated 7,000 art sites. Excavated sites have revealed evidence of the earliest human settlement in Australia and the world's oldest evidence of edge-ground axes. Pieces of ochre that were used for painting have been found throughout occupational deposits dating to 25,000 years ago. There are many sacred sites of great religious significance to the Aboriginal people (DASET, 1991; Gillespie, 1983).
Condition and Integrity Not Available
Location
About 1,916,000ha, located 200km east of Darwin.
Bibliography
Environment Australia (1999) Kakadu National Park Tour Operators Handbook,Environment Australia.
Kakadu Board of Management and Parks Australia (1998) Kakadu National Park - Plan of Management, Environment Australia
Press, T., Lea D., Webb, A. and Graham, A. (eds) (1995) Kakadu: Natural and cultural heritage and management  Australian Nature Conservation Agency, North Australia Research Unit, The Australian National University.
 

Report Produced  Fri Jul 25 14:30:27 2014