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DEFINITION OF A RAINFOREST

Rainforest is an umbrella term describing a broad range of vegetation community types in the Wet Tropics. In general, rainforests are closed, moisture loving communities of closely spaced trees distinguished from other closed canopy forests by the prominence of life-forms such as epiphytes and lianes, by the absence of annual herbs or grasses on the forest floor and by their floristic complexity.
Different types of rainforest are found in the Area. The differences relate very strongly to moisture and temperature gradients, both spatially and seasonally. The effects of soil type, soil drainage and wind exposure are also important .Webb (1978) has provided a classification of rainforest communities in Australia, 16 structural types of rainforest are recognised within the Area consisting of 30 broad community types. This classification has worldwide applicability being based on structural features (tree layers, evenness of canopy outline, relative crown depths and shapes), physiognomic features (leaf size, type and deciduousness, colour and texture of bark, buttressing) and special life forms (palms, ferns, epiphytes, vines).

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In so far as this classification applies to the wet tropics, the primary division is into leaf sizes (mesophyll >12.5cm long, notophyll 7.5-12.5cm long and microphyll 2.5-7.5cm long). The Authority currently accepts rainforests as including types 1 to 13 of Tracey & Webb (1975) and types 25, 26 and 27 of Olsen (1993). Descriptions of these rainforest vegetation types are provided (Table 1), along with descriptions of the non-rainforest vegetation communities occurring in the Area (i.e. types 14 to 23 inclusive). The Wet Tropics possesses four broad rainforest categories corresponding to the Area’s tropical, subtropical, temperate and monsoon climatic zones.
- Tropical rainforest types: 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a & 3b
- Subtropical rainforest types: 5a, 5b, 6, 7a, 7b, 8 & 25
- Temperate rainforest types: 9, 10 & 26
- Monsoon rainforest types: 1c, 4, 11 & 27

The main reason why ‘dry’ monsoon rainforests are still rainforests despite their marked difference from the wetter rainforests is that they also have a closed canopy, and many plant genera are common to both. These monsoon rainforest types are found in patches on moist well-drained soils, such as along watercourses (1c) and in situations which form a fire-shadow such as deep gullies (4) and rocky outcrops (11) amongst a matrix of open eucalypt forests and woodlands. Also included as successional rainforest categories are communities consisting of eucalypts and/or acacias which occur as scattered emergents above a well developed rainforest canopy or understorey and below which the sclerophyll component is unable to regenerate and fire is unable to penetrate (eg types 12 & 13).

RAINFOREST VEGETATION TYPES A. RAINFORESTS AND VINE THICKETS (TYPES 1 TO 13 PLUS TYPES 25, 26 & 27) Mesophyll Rainforest Types 1a Complex Mesophyll Vine Forest Very wet & wet lowlands and foothills on basalts, basic volcanics, mixed colluvium footslopes and riverine alluvia. 1b Complex Mesophyll Vine Forest Very wet & wet cloudy uplands on basalts. 1c Complex Mesophyll Vine Forest Moist & dry lowlands on riverine levees (gallery forests). 2a Mesophyll Vine Forest Very wet & wet lowlands and foothills on granites and metamorphics. 2b Mesophyll Vine Forest Very wet & wet lowlands on beach sands. 3a Mesophyll Vine Forest with Dominant Palms Very wet lowlands, feather-leaf (Archontophoenix) palm swamps on basaltic, granitic and alluvial soils. 3b Mesophyll Vine Forest with Dominant Palms Very wet lowlands and lower foothills, fan-leaf (Licuala) palm swamps on metamorphics and granites with seasonally impeded drainage. 4 Semi-Deciduous Mesophyll Vine Forest Moist & dry lowlands and foothills on granites and metamorphics. Notophyll Rainforest Types 5a Complex Notophyll Vine Forests Cloudy wet highlands on very limited areas of basalt and basic rocks. 5b Complex Notophyll Vine Forests Moist & dry lowlands, foothills and uplands on basalts. 6 Complex Notophyll Vine Forests (with emergent Agathis robusta) Moist foothills and uplands on granites and metamorphics. 25 Notophyll Vine Forest (with Araucaria cunninghamii) Moist foothills and uplands on granites.
27 Notophyll Semi-Evergreen Vine Forest. Moist & dry foothills and uplands on granites and metamorphics. 7a Notophyll Vine Forests (rarely without Acacia emergents) Moist lowlands and foothills on granites and metamorphics. 7b Notophyll Vine Forests (rarely without Acacia emergents) Moist & dry lowlands on beach sands. 8 Simple Notophyll Vine Forest (often with Agathis microstachya) Cloudy wet & moist uplands and highlands on granites, metamorphics and acid volcanics. Microphyll Rainforest & Thicket Types 26 Low Microphyll Vine Forest (often with Araucaria cunninghamii) Moist & dry foothills and uplands on granites. 9 Simple Microphyll Vine-Fern Forest (often with Agathis atropurpurea) Cloudy wet highlands on granites. 10 Simple Microphyll Vine-Fern Thicket Cloudy wet & moist windswept topslopes of uplands and highlands on granites. 11 Deciduous Microphyll Vine Thicket Dry lowlands and foothills on granite boulders. Rainforests with Acacia Emergents and Codominants 12a Vine forests characterised by Acacia aulacocarpa. Very wet and wet foothills, uplands and highlands on granites and metamorphic ridges (with 2a, 6). 12b Vine forests characterised by Acacia cincinnata, Acacia polystachya, Acacia aulacocarpa. Wet foothills on metamorphics (with 2a, 6). 12c Vine forests characterised by Acacia mangium, Acacia aulacocarpa. Very wet and wet lowlands and foothills on metamorphics (with 2a). 12d Vine forests characterised by Acacia melanoxylon, Acacia aulacocarpa. Cloudy wet uplands and highlands on a wide range of volcanic parent materials (with 9, 8, 5a). Rainforests with Eucalyptus, Corymbia and Acacia Emergents and Codominants 13a Vine forests with Eucalyptus pellita, Corymbia intermedia, Corymbia tessellaris, Acacia aulacocarpa, Acacia cincinnata, Acacia mangium, Acacia flavescens emergents and codominants. Very wet and wet lowlands and foothills on most parent materials other than basalts (with 2a). 13b Vine forests with Corymbia torelliana, Eucalyptus tereticornis, Corymbia intermedia, Eucalyptus pellita, Acacia aulacocarpa, Acacia cincinnata, Acacia polystachya emergents and codominants. Moist foothills and uplands on most parent materials other than basalts (with 6, 8). 13c Vine forests with Eucalyptus grandis, Acacia melanoxylon, Acacia aulacocarpa emergents and codominants. Wet and cloudy wet uplands on granites and acid volcanics (with 2a, 8, 9). 13d Vine forests with Eucalyptus tereticornis, Corymbia tessellaris, Corymbia intermedia, Acacia aulacocarpa, Acacia flavescens emergents and codominants. Wet and moist foothills on granites and basic volcanics (with 1a, 2a). 13e Vine forests with Syncarpia glomulifera, Corymbia intermedia, Eucalyptus pellita, Eucalyptus tereticornis, Acacia aulacocarpa, Acacia mangium emergents and codominants. Very wet and wet lowlands and foothills on granites, metamorphics and acid volcanics (with 2a). 13f Vine forests with Syncarpia glomulifera, Corymbia intermedia, Lophostemon confertus, Allocasuarina torulosa, Banksia integrifolia emergents and codominants. Wet to moist uplands and highlands on granites (with 8, 9).

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Source : Wet Tropics Management Authority
References
OLSEN, M. (1983). Review of vegetation mapping in the southern region of the Wet Tropics.
TRACEY, J.G. (1982). The Vegetation of the Humid Tropical Region of North Queensland. CSIRO, Melbourne.
TRACEY J.G. & WEBB, L.J. (1975). Vegetation of the Humid Tropical Region of North Queensland (15 maps at 1:100,000 scale + key).
CSIRO Long Pocket Laboratory, Indooroopilly, Brisbane. WEBB, L.J. (1978). A general classification of Australian rainforests. Australian Plants 9: 349-363.

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