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Unit 2, Outcome 1

Characteristics of Different
Outdoor Environments


Types and characteristics of selected

outdoor environments
Australians are the custodians of some of the most
diverse ecosystems on the planet. Our continent is
one of the worlds 12 biologically mega-diverse
regions, with a high proportion of endemic species
those that are found nowhere else in the world. For
example, 93% of our marsupial species and 88% of
our native rodents are endemic.

Victorias land area supports a wider range of broad

ecosystems than any area of a similar size in
Australia: Alpine, marine, coastal, heathlands.
wetlands, grasslands, forest and arid.
Each have specific features/characteristics that
make them unique and different from others.
These environments support at least 3140 native
species of vascular plants, 111 mammals, 447
birds, 46 freshwater and 600 marine fish, 133
reptiles, 33 amphibians and 750 mosses.
This richness in the number of different
ecosystems and different species, and the genetic
variety they exhibit is what we call biodiversity.

Continental Drift
Victoria contains a variety of natural
environments that have evolved and
developed over millions of years.

The specific type of environment you find yourself

in in dependent on a number of factors.
These include:
Position & Aspect


The influence of Geology can be seen in an area by the

type of rock found there, the soil characteristics and
Soil changes occur through the parent rock, the
elements (wind/rain/sun), living and decomposing
plants, and groundwater.
The shape of the land (topography) is also important,
such as is found at the Cathedral Range (upswept


Annual rainfall, extremes in temperature, and

average daylight hours are examples of climatic
factors that can affect a landscape. HOW?
Other aspects include wind patterns, evaporation,
ground temperature, frost frequency and snow
Australian rainfall is seasonal and erratic, producing
extended periods of drought.


Geographic location is very important when determining the
development of environment types. In physical geography, aspect
generally refers to the horizontal direction to which a mountain slope

Aspect can have a strong influence on temperature. This

is because aspect affects the angle of the sun rays when
they come in contact with the ground, and therefore
affects the concentration of the sun's rays hitting the
The aspect of a slope can make very significant
influences on its local climate. The sun's rays are in the
west at the hottest time of day in the afternoon, in most
cases a west-facing slope will be warmer than a sheltered
east-facing slope

In Australia, remnants of rainforest are almost always
found on east facing slopes which are protected from dry
westerly wind.
In eastern Australia, southerly and easterly aspects
- Lower radiation loads, resulting in reduced waterloss
- Are fire protected, thus permitting the survival of
rainforest species.

Factors affecting
Read page 59
Complete a table in your workbook like
Summarise as many key points as you can
from the text which influence the
of outdoor
affecting natural

of each factor

Different types of outdoor

Research and map Activity 1
Work with a partner to create a poster
depicting the
characteristics of a specific outdoor
Present your poster to the class in pairs.
Individuals will be required to take notes for
their - Biodiversity table of Victorian

On a large map of Victoria, outline the main
environment types and their distribution.

Dry forest & woodlands

Dry Forests and Woodlands

The Great Dividing Range forms a barrier across Victoria

It protects many north-facing slopes from the cool/moist
winds sweeping from Bass Straight.
This results in the northern foothills being relatively dry.
Different forest ecosystems include:
Stringybark forests (these dominate the near-coastal
landscape east of Western Port)
Red gum forests survive along major rivers in the north
of the State
BoxIronbark forests lie in a wide arc from west of
Stawell to east of Wangaratta

Box-Ironbark forest

Red-Gum Forest

Stringy Bark Forest

Dry forest & woodlands

Most of the dry forest & woodlands that would

have been found are now gone due to clearing.
Dry forests and woodlands are biologically
diverse and support a variety of plants and
animals, included some vary rare flowers and
Habitat modification, vegetation clearance,
weed invasion, feral predators and loss of
hollow-bearing trees are significant concern.

Arid and semi-arid areas

Arid and semi-arid areas

Approx. 4 million yrs ago, a vast inland sea covered
what we now call the Mallee and the north-western
part of Victoria. This has left this area with a legacy
of sand and shallow soils that cover the area today.
The area is dominated by low Mallee scrub and
small eucalyptus that can withstand prolonged dry
periods and harsh conditions.
The flora and fauna in this place is remarkably
diverse this being an area that seems very lifeless.


Prior to European settlers arriving in
Victoria, extensive grasslands covered
the plains between the Murray Valley
and the Great Dividing Range.
Indigenous people had used fire in the
past to maintain the open nature of
the landscape.
These grasslands contain a variety of
floral species, kangaroo grass,
wallaby and spear grass.
This environment attracted Europeans
for uses in cattle grazing, cropping
and pasturelands.


As a result of these things listed, less than

1% of Victorias native grasslands remains
intact today. These areas are however in
very small areas and therefore face the risk
of weed invasion, salinity and urban

Heathlands are
found within
Victoria from the
Coast to the
Characteristically a
low and shrubby
environment, trees
twisted by the dry
winds they are
typically subjects

Nutrient levels in the
soil are generally low,
and the soils are also
acidic. These areas
have a close
relationship with fire,
some plants needing
this to re-germinate.
The grass tree is one
example. (Xanthorrhoea


These environments are dominated by hardleaved plants such as banksias,

bottlebrushes, tea trees and eucalypts.
As their name suggest they are also
populated by a number of heaths.

Wet Forests and Rainforests

Victorias wet forests
and rainforests are
found in southern,
central and northeast
regions of the state.
They include the
Otways, Wilsons Prom,
and the Alps .
The worlds largest
flowering plant (the
Mountain Ash) occurs
in these ecosystems.

Wet Forests and Rainforests

Other plants/trees include manna gum,

messmate stringybark, mountain grey gum,
Blackwood, and various tree ferns.
Several rare mammals including possums and
birds require hollow trees to nest and habitat.
Many forest plants have adapted well to fire
and can re-establish them afterwards,
however rainforest plants have not adapted
well and can reduce significantly after a fire.

The Alps

The word Alpine is often used to describe any
high mountain area. Theoretically, the term
refers to the area above a certain altitude where
there are no trees because of prolonged cold.
Snow covered areas of Australia cover approx
0.15% of the country (11,700 square kms).
Mt Kosciusko is Australias highest peak (2228 m)
and Mt Bogong is Victoria's highest (1986

The Alps (Alpine)

Aust. Alps have eroded
over 500 million yrs,
unlike others around
the world. This has
formed rounded
mountains and
Sphagnum moss is a
very unique vegetation
that has adapted to
suit the Victorian Alps.

Bogong High Plains

The Coast

The Coast
Victoria has over 2000 km of coastline
It ranges from sheltered bays and inlets to
rugged eroded cliffs.
The west coast is sometimes exposed to gale
forced winds that have contributed to the
amazing scenery along the Great Ocean Road.
The coast is constantly changing due to the
relentless effects of the wind, rain and waves.
Some factors that influence coastal vegetation
are related to wind, salt and natural land

The Coast
Dunes are held together by grasses
and herbs, while salt marsh and
mangroves inhabit the mudflats.
These plants play a crucial role in
holding the subsoil together in
these environments.
Birds are the most common types
of fauna in this environment,
ranging from Fairy Penguins to a
large number of migratory birds
from Siberia, Japan and the North
Pacific Ocean.


To expand your understanding of the

different types of outdoor ecosystem, use
Victorias Biodiversity Our living Wealth
or Viridians to complete an unfinished
sections of your Biodiversity table of
Victorian Ecosystems.