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Title: History of the Australian Vegetation: Cretaceous to Recent
Author(s): Robert S Hill (ed)
Date of Publication: 2007 Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Pages: x + 433 ISBN: 0 521 03957 6
Price: Format:Paperback
Target Readership Educator







Content: 1 – The Australian fossil plant record: an introduction; 2 - Maps of late Mesozoic-Cenozoic Gondwana break up: some palaeogeographical implications; 3 - The background: 144 million years of Australian palaeoclimate and palaeogeography; 4 - Palaeobotanical evidence for Tertiary climates; 5 - Landscapes of Australia: their evolution and nature; 6 - Patterns in the history of Australia's mammals and inferences about palaeohabitats; 7 - Australian Tertiary phytogeography: evidence from palynology; 8 - Cretaceous vegetation: the microfossil record; 9 - Cretaceous vegetation: the macrofossil record; 10 - Early Tertiary vegetation: evidence from spores and pollens; 11 - The early Tertiary macrofloras of continental Australia; 12 - Cenozoic vegetation in Tasmania: macrofossil evidence; 13 - The Neogene: a period of transition; 14 - The Oligo-Miocene coal floras of Southeastern Australia; 15 - Quaternary vegetation; 16 - The history of selected Australian taxa.

Review: Although this text has only recently been printed it is, in fact, a digital copy from the original in 1994. After such a time one might consider that any data contained in it were too out-of-date to be of use but the reality is that despite the debate having moved forward there is not so much being published that is readily available that one can dismiss this text. It misses the current debate but fills in many of the gaps that don't seem to make it through to modern books. It is important to note that Australia has a very high degree of endemicity and so any work shedding light on this process is useful.

We start with an extremely brief overview of the fossil record and an outline of the some key issues of interpretation. This is followed by an outline of the breakup of Australia and Antarctica - a main event in the evolution of Australian flora. The focus of this text is the past 144 million years and chapter three starts this exploration with a description of past climate and geography. The ancient nature of the continent, its relative geographic position and the role of climate have all been crucial and so this is a useful overview for those less familiar with the situation. In chapter four we switch to the botanical evidence for climates - the usual case of the accuracy of proxies. Chapter five moves back to landscapes and their evolution. Although this is a book on vegetation one should not forget the role of herbivores - chapter six is a useful reminder of how they have shaped vegetation patterns. Chapter seven starts the main move towards paleobotanical interpretations of past environments. In this case its the use of pollen studies. Next we keep the scale but move to all microfossils and the evidence they have for geographical conditions in the Cretaceous: chapter 9 provides the macro-scale view. Chapter 10, by far the largest of any chapter, looks in considerable detail at the early Tertiary conditions through the use of pollen records with another macro-view provided by the subsequent contributor. Most of the contributions are decidedly Australia-wide which is both unusual and welcome given the size of the country. However, there are regions of particular interest and both chapters 12 and 14 focus on these with a discussion of Tasmania and SE Australia respectively. This leaves the intervening chapters to focus on the Neogene and Quaternary. A final chapter looks at certain species through time.

Although one cannot get away from the age of this text on another level it is a very useful addition to the library. There is a tendency in Australia, especially given its size, to focus on one area and although this gives excellent results it does not always give the reader the sense of overview of the continent that one would want. This is useful if you are studying that area but a more holistic approach is less common. For this reason this book is a useful addition for those trying to understand the complex nature of this place.





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