World Heritage Places - Tasmanian Wilderness


The Tasmanian Wilderness is one of the largest conservation reserves in Australia. At approximately 1.6 million hectares it is one of the three largest temperate wilderness areas remaining in the Southern Hemisphere.

The region is home to some of the deepest and longest caves in Australia. It is renowned for its diversity of flora, and some of the longest lived trees and tallest flowering plants in the world grow in the area. The Tasmanian Wilderness is a stronghold for several animals that are either extinct or threatened on mainland Australia.

The Tasmanian Wilderness contains hundreds of archaeological sites, including many cave sites dating from the late Pleistocene and early Holocene epochs. The earliest cave sites are evidence of what are currently understood to be the southern-most people in the world during the last glacial period, who were part of the forefront of the first expansion of modern humans across the globe.

The Tasmanian Wilderness was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1982 and extended in 1989, June 2010, June 2012 and again in June 2013.

The Tasmanian Wilderness was one of 15 World Heritage places included in the National Heritage List on 21 May 2007.

Description of place

The rugged and spectacular landscapes of the Tasmanian Wilderness contain rocks from almost every geological period, the oldest being formed about 1,100 million years ago during the Precambrian period. Some of the deepest and longest caves in Australia and other spectacular karst landscapes are found here.

Due to the diversity of its vegetation the region is recognised as an International Centre for Plant Diversity by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The highly varied flora, ranging from open and closed forests through to buttongrass moorland and alpine communities, occurs in a unique mosaic of Antarctic and Australian elements. The Antarctic element consists of species descended from those present on the supercontinent Gondwana.

Some of the longest lived trees in the world such as Huon pines (Lagarostrobos) and other native conifers grow in the area. Nothofagus is an ancient plant genus of Gondwanan ancestry, represented in the area by N. cunninghamii and Australia's only winter deciduous tree, N. gunnii. Some of the tallest flowering plants in the world, Eucalyptus regnans, grow here. The area contains approximately 264, or 65 per cent, of Tasmania's endemic vascular plant species.

The fauna is also of global significance because it includes an unusually high proportion of endemic species and relict groups of ancient lineage. The diverse topography, geology, soils and vegetation, in association with harsh and variable climatic conditions, combine to create a wide array of animal habitats. Many groups of marsupials and burrowing freshwater crayfish have survived as relicts of the Gondwanan fauna.

The insularity of Tasmania, and of the Tasmanian Wilderness in particular, has contributed to its uniqueness. The area remains a stronghold for several animals such as the Tasmanian devil, Tasmanian pademelon, eastern quoll and ground parrot that are either extinct or threatened on mainland Australia. The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is home to the last wild breeding population of the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot. There may be less than 50 Orange-bellied Parrots in the wild currently.

Fauna endemic to the region include the moss froglet, Pedra Branca skink, Pedder galaxias and invertebrate groups with a high proportion of species entirely or primarily restricted to the area, such as freshwater crayfish, mountain shrimps, stoneflies, caddisflies, landhoppers and harvestmen.

The Tasmanian Wilderness contains the world’s densest concentration of human occupation sites dating from the late Pleistocene and early Holocene epochs, between approximately 35 000 and 12 000 years ago.

The region’s cave sites contain evidence of the hunting and gathering lifestyles of the people who occupied these high southern latitudes when the climate was much more variable, and at times much colder and drier, with glaciers flowing down from the nearby mountain ranges.

Some caves contain dense, well-preserved layers of animal bones, tools and hearths. Others contain early hand stencils.

The full number and significance of the archaeological sites within the Tasmanian Wilderness is the subject of ongoing study, which is expected to further illuminate the cultural heritage of the property.

Since inscription on the World Heritage List, the Tasmanian Wilderness has been managed under a partnership arrangement between the Australian and Tasmanian Governments which ensures the protection of its outstanding natural and cultural heritage. Day-to-day management of the area is the responsibility of the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service in the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE), although some smaller areas are managed by other entities, for example Hydro Tasmania, Tasmanian Land Conservancy, Bush Heritage Tasmania and Tas Networks. For more information visit the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service.


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