Rainforests of Australia – the interconnectivity between plant and animal survival
Where once our rugged land was covered in lush, rich and dense rainforest, we are now fighting for the survival of the remaining tiny ecosystem pockets. As the rainforest disappears, so too does a vital resource of food, protection and habitat for a huge percentage of Australia’s wildlife. The interesting thing is, that in order for the rainforest to thrive naturally, it relies heavily on the behaviour of its inhabitants, to encourage dispersal and new growth.
The vulnerability of the large fruits
Many of the world’s rainforests are home to large and diverse wildlife, such as monkeys, squirrels and even rhinoceroses. These large animals consume, move and disperse the seeds of large and small-fruited plants alike. In Australia, we have very few animals, who have the capacity to consume larger fruited plants.
Research conducted by our Senior Principal Research Scientist Dr Maurizio Rossetto has revealed that this has left our larger fruited species vulnerable and less able to disperse and multiply.
The Southern Cassowary and their crucial role
The Southern Cassowary lives deep in the rainforests of north-east Queensland. It is a unique bird, in that it is one of the only native rainforest animals that is large enough to ingest the larger seeded fruits. Many of these plants are solely reliant on the behaviour of the cassowary to disperse their seeds.
As the population of the cassowary dwindles, the dispersal potential goes with them. Through research such as Dr Rossetto’s, we are reminded just how reliant our animal and plant life are on one another and just how essential their work is to the overall endurance of our rainforests.