a misty rainforest

Terrestrial environments

Queensland’s diverse terrestrial environments are familiar to all of those who have visited, lived or worked in Australia’s second largest state. Extending from the tropics to the subtropics, and from the Pacific Ocean coastline to the arid interior, Queensland is home to a vast array of habitats distributed across 18 of Australia’s 89 terrestrial bioregions. Classification of these habitats at a state-wide level is achieved using a sophisticated regional ecosystems approach as applied to vegetation communities. However, these habitats can also be broadly and more simply classified into three major types based on climate and vegetation characteristics. Rainforests and other closed forests usually occur on or east of the Great Dividing Range, open eucalypt forests and woodlands can be found throughout eastern and tropical regions, and the arid outback encompasses inland areas that generally receive less than 300 mm of annual rainfall.

Rainforests and other closed forests

Queensland’s rainforests, vine thickets and closed forest habitats include a surprisingly wide variety of different regional ecosystems associated with particular landforms, climates and soil types, from cool-temperate rainforests on the highest slopes of the Great Dividing Range, to drier lowland semi-evergreen vine thickets in transitional rainfall habitats. Although geographically patchy and of generally limited extent, rainforests and other closed forests are home to the highest diversity and concentration of species in Queensland. Two major rainforest regions – encompassing the Wet Tropics of north-eastern Queensland and the ‘Scenic Rim’ of extreme south-eastern Queensland – are World Heritage-listed areas of international significance, renowned for their outstanding natural and cultural heritage values.

Open forests and woodlands

Open forests and woodlands include a complex variety of sclerophyll forest habitats, most of which are dominated by gum tree species in the genera Eucalyptus and Corymbia, with diverse understorey grasses, shrubs and other plant species. These habitats are extremely widespread in eastern and tropical Australia, and well known to most Queenslanders given the geographic location of most of the state’s major population centres on the eastern seaboard. Open forests are home to many of the most familiar and iconic fauna species in Queensland, some of which have also adapted to urban environments.

Arid outback

Queensland’s arid outback – part of Australia’s vast inland arid zone – extends from the eastern Mulga Lands and Desert Uplands, west to the Mitchell Grass Downs, Channel Country and Simpson-Strzelecki Deserts. These beautiful landscapes vary widely depending on patterns of rainfall, climate and geology, and are home to a distinctive fauna. Arid zone species, both vertebrate and invertebrate alike, are usually highly adapted to dry conditions in which access to fresh water is a key limiting factor. Despite the challenges of life in the arid outback, these habitats are home to a surprisingly high diversity of species, although these species are often spatially restricted and sometimes only readily visible during certain conditions. Indeed, the biological transformation of the arid outback after rare rainfall events is one of Australia's natural wonders, resulting in a temporary explosion of animal and plant life.

Terrestrial fauna

With such a wide variety of habitats, Queensland’s terrestrial environments are also home to a remarkable diversity of animal species, making Queensland the most faunistically biodiverse state or territory in Australia.

The major terrestrial vertebrate groups – the mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians – are all well represented in Queensland, with many iconic species found nowhere else.

Insects are the most abundant and diverse animals throughout the state, closely followed by their main invertebrate predators – the arachnids. Tropical and subtropical rainforest habitats have an extremely high species richness of insects and arachnids, although both groups are well represented across all of Queensland’s habitats.

Many other lineages of terrestrial invertebrates also form part of the Queensland terrestrial fauna, including millipedes and centipedes (the myriapods), snails, terrestrial crustaceans, velvet worms, flatworms, nematodes and earthworms, among others.

Queensland’s terrestrial environments and their unique fauna species are celebrated in the Queensland Museum’s permanent Wild State Gallery, situated on Level 4 at South Bank.

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