Investigating the evolution of Australia's and New Guinea's rainforests

CBA Synthesis Group Crossing Lines: A new synthesis on Asian, Melanesian and Australian biotic exchange
30 October 2023

In 2019, the Centre for Biodiveristy Analysis hosted a small and targeted gathering of scientists from across Australasia, with diverse but complementary skills spanning in plant and animal biogeography, macro-evolutionary inference, paleoclimatology and plate tectonic modelling.

This cross-taxon, cross-discipline focused Synthesis Group workshop "Crossing Lines: A new synthesis on Asian, Melanesian and Australian biotic exchange" led to the formulation of a number of new hypotheses for key events in both the geological and biotic history of Australia and resulted in several publications.

Paul Oliver (Griffith University) who led the Synthesis Group, and colleagues, have now been awarded $552K from the Australian Research Council for a new project Is New Guinea the missing link for understanding Australia's rainforests?

The newly funded Discovery Project aims to understand the extent to which the animals in Australia have shared histories with animals from the islands of Melanesia, and especially New Guinea.

Key outcomes will be identification of hotspots of unique and high evolutionary diversity across both regions, and understanding of whether New Guinea has been an overall refuge or source for rainforest animals as Australia became more arid over the last 20 million years.

Expected benefits include addressing fundamental gaps in our knowledge of the history of both the Australian continent and its resident biota such as when landbridges first formed with New Guinea, and the identification of priority areas for conservation investment in both Australian and Melanesia.

The ARC’s Discovery Projects scheme supports individual researchers or research teams to expand Australia's knowledge base and research capacity, and provide economic, commercial, environmental, social and/or cultural benefits to Australia.