The Greater Blue Mountains consists of 10,000 km2 of mostly forested landscape on a sandstone plateau extending 60 to 180 kilometres inland from central Sydney, New South Wales.
Description of place
The property includes very extensive areas of a wide range of eucalypt communities and large tracts of wilderness. The high wilderness quality of much of the Greater Blue Mountains constitutes a vital and highly significant contribution to its World Heritage value and has ensured the integrity of its ecosystems and the retention and protection of its heritage values.
The Greater Blue Mountains is an area of breathtaking views, rugged tablelands, sheer cliffs, deep, inaccessible valleys and swamps teeming with life. The unique plants and animals that live in this outstanding natural place relate an extraordinary story of Australia's antiquity, its diversity of life and its superlative beauty. This is the story of the evolution of Australia's unique eucalypt vegetation and its associated communities, plants and animals.
The property is comprised of eight protected areas in two blocks separated by a transportation and urban development corridor. These protected areas are the Blue Mountains, Wollemi, Yengo, Nattai, Kanangra-Boyd, Gardens of Stone and Thirlmere Lakes National Parks, and the Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve.
The area is a deeply incised sandstone plateau rising from less than 100 metres above sea level to about 1300 metres at the highest point. There are basalt outcrops on the higher ridges. This plateau is thought to have enabled the survival of a rich diversity of plant and animal life by providing a refuge from climatic changes during recent geological history. It is particularly noted for its wide and balanced representation of eucalypt communities ranging from wet and dry sclerophyll to mallee heathlands, as well as localised swamps, wetlands, and grassland. One hundred and one species of eucalypts (over 14 per cent of the global total) occur in the Greater Blue Mountains. Twelve of these are believed to occur only in the Sydney sandstone region.
The evolution of eucalypts
The property has been described as a natural laboratory for studying the evolution of eucalypts. The largest area of high diversity of eucalypts on the continent is located in southeast Australia and the Greater Blue Mountains includes much of this eucalypt diversity.
As well as supporting such a significant proportion of the world's eucalypt species, the property provides examples of the range of structural adaptations of the eucalypts to Australian environments. These vary from tall forests at the margins of rainforest in the deep valleys, through open forests and woodlands, to shrublands of stunted mallees on the exposed tablelands.
The ancient Wollemi pine
In addition to its outstanding eucalypts, the Greater Blue Mountains also contains ancient, relict species of global significance. The most famous of these is the recently-discovered Wollemi pine, Wollemia nobilis, a "living fossil" dating back to the age of the dinosaurs. Thought to have been extinct for millions of years, the few surviving trees of this ancient species are known only from three small populations located in remote, inaccessible gorges within the Greater Blue Mountains. The Wollemi pine is one of the world's rarest species.
More than 400 different kinds of animals live within the rugged gorges and tablelands of the Greater Blue Mountains. These include threatened or rare species of conservation significance, such as the spotted-tailed quoll, the koala, the yellow-bellied glider, the long-nosed potoroo, the green and golden bell frog and the Blue Mountains water skink. Flora and fauna of conservation significance and their habitats are a major component of the World Heritage values of the area.
The area is widely renowned and extensively used for sight-seeing, bushwalking, rock climbing, canyoning and other outdoor recreational pursuits.
- New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change
- New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change - Greater Blue Mountains information
- Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust
- World Heritage Committee information for Greater Blue Mountains Area
- World Heritage Monitoring Centre Blue Mountains natural site data sheet
- The Colong Foundation for Wilderness
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