Some 200 million years ago Antarctica, Earth’s southernmost continent, was joined to South America, Africa, India, and Australia in a single large continent called Gondwanaland. There was no ice sheet, and trees and large animals flourished. This continent eventually split into landmasses we recognise today and only geological formations, coal beds, and fossils remain as clues to Antarctica's warm past.
Nothofagus gunnii, Australia’s one true temperate deciduous native tree, is the deciduous beech or Fagus located in Tasmania. Fossil records dating back 35 million years links it back to Gondwana when it was widely distributed. Surviving whilst other plants from the same time did not, has helped scientists understand how vegetation evolved and migrated throughout the southern hemisphere. As landmasses began moving away from one another, fauna also adapted to specific environments. Australia’s unique and iconic fauna found ecological niches in which to survive. Yet despite this, many of Australia’s precious fauna and flora struggle to maintain their existence.
Every five years, the Australian government releases a comprehensive assessment of the state of our environment. One of the key findings in the 2021 State of the Environment report (SoE 2021) was “In a rapidly changing climate, with unsustainable development and use of resources, the general outlook for our environment is deteriorating.” The report confirmed that Australia and surrounding seas support 600,000–700,000 native species, and a very high proportion of these are found nowhere else in the world. About 85% of Australia’s plant species are endemic to the continent, and Australia is home to half of the world’s marsupial species.
The report states that 533 animal and 1,385 plant species were listed under Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999; 53% of the listed species are Endangered or Critically Endangered. The list includes 105 species that are Extinct or Extinct in the Wild Flora and fauna | Australia state of the environment 2021 (dcceew.gov.au)
The Australian Nature Wheel is not so much a call to action, but a reminder of the beautiful country we are privileged to live on and enjoy. In ABC’s 2021 Australia Talks National Survey, 81% of the 60,000 plus respondents said the natural environment was very important in uniting and defining Australia. There is much to revere across our land and surrounding seas, with many committed Australian organisations and associations providing information and resources for those who wish to contribute to reversing current environmental trends. More information on some of these groups can be found on the Australian Nature Events page.
The Australian Nature Wheel is a celebration of nature’s annual cycle of change. This change is defined by the seasonal presence, retreat and return of the Sun’s light. Observing time as cyclical requires a shift of perspective. One that does not comply with the linear scope of viewing the year month by month as we have become accustomed to. It has been designed to show the interconnectedness of the world around us. Created as a national representation with the understanding that localised seasonal shifts vary considerably across our continent.
The dates listed for the 2024 solstices and equinoxes are the same for each state and territory. Moon phase dates are also the same for each state and territory in 2024, with the exception of Western Australia. Time zone adjustment for this area is listed on the product information page.
A Companion Guide that expands on the cyclical layers found in the Australian Nature Wheel is also available.
The 2024 Australian Nature Wheel is beautifully captured on 170 gsm satin paper (594mm x 841mm)
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Creator of Australia’s Nature Wheel