Introduction: Australia is the island continent located southeast of Asia. The continent is bounded on the north by the Timor Sea, the Arafura Sea, and the Torres Strait; on the east by the Coral Sea and the Tasman Sea; on the south by the Bass Strait and the Indian Ocean; and on the west by the Indian Ocean. The commonwealth extends for about 4,000 km from east to west and for about 3,700 km from north to south. It’s coastline measures some 25,760 km (Australia boasts over 7,000 beaches - more than any other nation). The area of the Australia is 7,682,300 sq km, and the area of the continent alone is 7,614,500 sq km.Australia is the smallest continen in the world, but the sixth largest country.
Australia is the flattest of continents, the average elevation is about 300 m. In the east the coastal plains are separated from the vast interior plains by the Great Dividing Range, or Eastern Highlands. This mountainous region averages approximately 1,200 m in height and stretches along the eastern coast from Cape York in the north to Victoria in the southeast. Much of the region consists of high plateaus broken by gorges and canyons. Subdivisions of the range bear many local names, including, from north to south, the New England Plateau, Blue Mountains, and Australian Alps; in Victoria, where the range extends westward, it is known as the Grampians, or by its Aboriginal name, Gariwerd. The highest peak in the Australian Alps, and the highest in Australia, is Mount Kosciusko (2,228 m), in New South Wales. A section of the Great Dividing Range is in Tasmania, which is located about 240 km from the southeastern tip of the continent and is separated from it by Bass Strait. The waters of the strait are shallow, with an average depth of 70 m. The major islands in the strait are the Furneaux Group and Kent Group in the east, and King, Hunter, Three Hummock, and Robbins islands in the west. The western half of the continent is a great plateau, about 300 to 450 m above sea level. The Great Western Plateau includes the Great Sandy, Great Victoria, and Gibson deserts. Western Australia has, in its northern half, several isolated mountain ranges, including the King Leopold and Hamersley ranges. The interior is relatively flat except for several eroded mountain chains, such as the Stuart Range and the Musgrave Ranges in the northern part of South Australia and the Macdonnell Ranges in the southern part of the Northern Territory.
The central basin, or the Central-Eastern Lowlands, is an area of vast, rolling plains that extends west from the Great Dividing Range to the Great Western Plateau. In this region lies the richest pastoral and agricultural land in Australia. Uluru (Ayers Rock), in the center of Australia in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, is believed to be the largest monolith in the world. It is 9 km around its base and rises sharply to some 348 m above the surrounding flat, arid land. Other mountain ranges of limited size in the central part of Australia are the Flinders Ranges and Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia. The area along the south central coast is called the Nullarbor Plain. The Nullarbor is a vast, arid limestone plateau that is virtually uninhabited. It has an extensive system of caverns, tunnels, and sinkholes that contain valuable geological information about life in ancient Australia. Extinct volcanic craters are located in the southeastern part of South Australia and in Victoria. The coastline of Australia is generally regular, with few bays or capes. The largest inlets are the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north and the Great Australian Bight in the south. The several fine harbors include those of Sydney, Hobart, Port Lincoln, and Albany. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest known coral formation in the world. It extends some 2,010 km along the eastern coast of Queensland from Cape York in the north to Bundaberg in the south. The chain of reefs forms a natural breakwater for the passage of ships along the coast. The Great Dividing Range separates rivers that flow east to the coast from those that flow across the great plains through the interior. The most important of the rivers that flow toward the eastern coast are the Burdekin, Fitzroy, Hunter, and Nepean-Hawkesbury. The Fitzroy River forms a large drainage basin in Queensland. The Murray-Darling-Murrumbidgee network, which flows inland from the Great Dividing Range, drains an area of more than 1 million sq km in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. The Murray River and its main tributary, the Darling, total about 5,300 km (about 3,300 mi) in length. The Murray River itself forms most of the border between New South Wales and Victoria. Considerable lengths of the Murray, Darling, and Murrumbidgee rivers are navigable during the wet seasons. Most of the major natural lakes of Australia contain salt water. The great network of salt lakes in South Australia—Lake Eyre, Lake Torrens, Lake Frome, and Lake Gairdner—is the remains of a vast inland sea that once extended south from the Gulf of Carpentaria. During the dry season many of the salt lakes become salt-encrusted swamp beds or clay pans. Lake Argyle, created by the construction of the Ord River Scheme, is Australia's largest artificially created freshwater lake.
Climate: The climate is generally pleasant without extremes in temperatures. Broadly there are two climatic zones. In the north, above the Tropic of Capricorn, about 40 percent of Australia is in the tropical zone. The remaining areas lie in the temperate zone. However, because of Australia’s vast size, there are variations within these zones. The temperate regions have all four seasons, while those in the tropical zone have two: summer ("wet") and winter ("dry").
Australia's seasons are the opposite to those of the Northern Hemisphere.
· Spring: September-November
· Summer: December-February
· Fall: March-May
· Winter: June-August.
Australia also experiences many of nature's more extreme phenomena from droughts, floods and tropical cyclones, to severe storms and bushfires.
There are rainforests and vast plains in the north, snowfields in the south east, desert in the centre and fertile croplands in the east, south and south west. About one third of the country lies in the tropics.
Plants & Animals:
Isolation of the Australian island-continent for 55 million years created a sanctuary for the flora and fauna. About 70 percent of the birds, 88 percent of the reptiles, and 94 percent of the frogs are unique to Australia. Australia’s best-known animals are the kangaroo, koala, platypus, spiny anteater, Tasmanian devil and dingo. Australia has 20 000 species of plants, including living fossils such as the cycad palm and the grass tree, and brilliant wildflowers such as the waratah, Sturt’s desert pea, the flowering cones of banksia trees, and the red and green kangaroo paw. The continent has 700 species of acacia, which Australians call wattle, and 1200 species in the Myrtaceae family which includes eucalypts or gum trees.
Environmental Issues : Australia has an extensive system of terrestrial national parks and reserves, which are administered by the individual states. A number of marine and estuarine reserves have also been designated, including the massive Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The system includes 11 World Heritage Sites and 12 biosphere reserves designated under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Man and the Biosphere Program. Australia's protected land comprises 7 percent (1997) of the country. Australia has few permanent rivers, and a great deal of farm water comes from wells that tap a few large underground artesian basins, most of which supply saline water of marginal quality. Salinization and alkalization of soil is common. Soil erosion and desertification due to poor farming practices occurs, especially on overgrazed land. Kangaroos compete with cattle for forage in some regions—the kangaroos are sometimes harvested as a game species for sport and to reduce their numbers. Australia has developed as a major industrial power with a high standard of living and has thus experienced the accompanying problems of water, soil, and air pollution near its cities. The country is a major source of global greenhouse gas emissions. Many environmental policies are quite stringent, however, such as those governing the recycling and disposal of household waste. The country's greatest environmental asset is its relatively low population—only about 19 million people—giving Australia one of the lowest overall population densities of any country. Internationally, Australia has ratified numerous environmental agreements to protect the environment and prevent climate change, including agreements to preserve Antarctica's pristine state. Regionally, Australia cooperates with other South Pacific nations in protection of the marine environment. Agreements to protect migratory birds have been made with Japan and China.