Stand near the cen­tre of the Nullar­bor Plain, look around and in ev­ery di­rec­tion your gaze will be al­most un­in­ter­rupted.

Australian Geographic - - Geo buzz -

There are few hilly mounds and barely the sil­hou­ette of a tree to catch your eye. At a vast 200,000sq. km, this al­most en­tirely flat plain is the world’s largest con­tin­u­ous ex­panse of karst land­scape. Most of it is cov­ered in an end­less swathe of a drought- and salt-tol­er­ant low shrub­land habi­tat known as cheno­pod steppe.

It’s hot, dr y, flat, fea­ture­less and, on f irst glance, de­void of an­i­mal life. But there are ghosts here that tell a com­plex story of a time when this now tree­less plain was a very dif­fer­ent place.

One mil­lion to 500,000 years ago it was cov­ered in what prob­a­bly re­sem­bled open mallee wood­land. Yes, this vast Aus­tralian land­scape that is to­day def ined by its lack of trees – in fact the name Nullar­bor comes from the Latin for ‘no tree’ – was once well cov­ered by a mo­saic of wood­land and shrub­land. In some places there was even stand­ing sur­face wa­ter for at least part of the time.

The Nullar­bor has only re­cently, in ge­o­logic time, be­come the des­o­late place we know to­day.

There’s barely a tree to be seen along the route of the Trans-Aus­tralian Rail­way, which crosses the Nullar­bor Plain and in­cludes the world’s long­est straight stretch of rail­way track – 478km.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.