|List||World Heritage List|
|Legal Status||Declared property (01/12/1981)|
|Place File No||7/04/001/0014|
|Statement of Significance|
Kakadu National Park was inscribed on the World
Heritage List in three stages over eleven years. It is one of the few sites
included on the List for both outstanding cultural and natural universal
The flood plains of Kakadu are sites of ongoing geological processes that illustrate the ecological effects of sea-level change in northern Australia. As well, the park represents a series of interacting ecosystems that continue to evolve in their natural setting with minimum human disturbance.
Kakadu contains features of great natural beauty and sweeping landscapes. Its focal points are the internationally important wetlands and the spectacular escarpment and outliers.
The park contains important and significant habitats for a diverse range of flora and fauna, with more than 60 species of mammals, 289 species of birds (more than a quarter of all Australian bird species), 132 species of reptiles, 25 species of frogs, 55 species of freshwater fish and over 10 000 species of insects.
In the southern hills, or stone country, the climate of the monsoonal north overlaps with that of the dry centre of Australia. Many plant and animal species found here are endangered outside the park. For instance, over 30 plant species in this area are rare or endemic. The stone country forms much of the catchment of the South Alligator River.
The western edge of the Arnhem Land Plateau is a 500 kilometres long escarpment, over which spectacular waterfalls cascade during the wet season. Rainforests in the ravines and plateau are dominated by allosyncarpia trees, found only along the Arnhem Land escarpment, outliers and plateau.
The spinifex sandstone scrub and woodland communities on the top of the plateau are home to rare or restricted bird species such as the hooded parrot and the white-throated grass wren. The escarpment caves provide shelter for rare bats.
Isolated massive rock outliers have been left behind as the escarpment has eroded eastwards. Several mammals, such as the black wallaroo, and other animals, including the Oenpelli python and the giant cave gecko, are restricted to the outliers, escarpment and plateau.
Eucalypt forests, eucalypt woodlands and grasslands cover much of the lowland areas in Kakadu National Park. Where the lowlands meet the floodplains there are isolated pockets of monsoon rainforest.
During the wet season, rivers and creeks flood and spread out over the broad floodplains to form vast wetlands, where ducks, geese and wading birds abound. These extensive wetlands are listed under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (the Ramsar Convention).
Thirty-five species of waders have been recorded on the wetlands, many being winter migrants from the sub-Arctic region. Kakadu National Park is a major staging point within Australia for many migrating birds.
The rivers of Kakadu meander to the Van Dieman Gulf, carrying with them, and gradually depositing, large quantities of silt, forming extensive mudflats that are inundated with salt water at high tide. Only salt-tolerant plants such as mangroves can grow here. Twenty two species of mangroves are found in the area. The mangrove swamps are important feeding and breeding grounds for a great many invertebrate species, many fish, including barramundi, and a variety of birds.
The rich natural resources of Kakadu have sustained human habitation for at least 25 000 years and possibly 40 000 to 60 000 years.
The park is extremely important to Aboriginal people, and many communities still occupy the region. Significant sites associated with the Dreaming are particularly significant to the Aboriginal communities.
The Aboriginal art sites of Kakadu National Park are a unique artistic achievement that provides an outstanding record of human interaction with the environment over tens of thousands of years.
The art sites, concentrated along the Arnhem Land escarpment and its outliers, display a range of art styles, including naturalistic paintings of animals.
The southern part of the park contains a number of art sites, the most significant being those associated with 'Bula', a Creation Time being who created a number of sacred and potent sites that, even today, are considered by Aborigines to be dangerous.
The art also includes more recent 'contact' images of Macassan and European items and people. These reflect contact between Aboriginal people and Macassans from the 17th century onwards and the European discovery of the East and South Alligator Rivers.
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).
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).
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).
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).
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|
About 1,916,000ha, located 200km east of Darwin.|
(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 Sat Dec 21 22:23:19 2013