Ekonomiko-geographical description of Australia — страница 6

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34,218kilometres (21,262mi) of coastline (excluding all offshore islands)[56] and claims an extensive Exclusive Economic Zone of 8,148,250square kilometres (3,146,060sqmi). This exclusive economic zone does not include the Australian Antarctic Territory. The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef,[57] lies a short distance off the north-east coast and extends for over 2,000kilometres (1,240mi). Mount Augustus, claimed to be the world's largest monolith,[58] is located in Western Australia. At 2,228metres (7,310ft), Mount Kosciuszko on the Great Dividing Range is the highest mountain on the Australian mainland, although Mawson Peak on the remote Australian territory of Heard Island is taller at 2,745metres (9,006ft). By far the largest part of Australia is desert or

semi-arid lands commonly known as the outback. Australia is the flattest continent, with the oldest and least fertile soils, and is the driest inhabited continent. Only the south-east and south-west corners of the continent have a temperate climate. The population density, 2.8 inhabitants per square kilometre, is among the lowest in the world, although a great proportion of the population lives along the temperate south-eastern coastline. The landscapes of the northern part of the country, with a tropical climate, consist of rainforest, woodland, grassland, mangrove swamps, and desert. The climate is significantly influenced by ocean currents, including the Indian Ocean Dipole and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, which is correlated with periodic drought, and the seasonal

tropical low pressure system that produces cyclones in northern Australia.[59] Environment Although most of Australia is semi-arid or desert, it includes a diverse range of habitats from alpine heaths to tropical rainforests, and is recognised as a megadiverse country. Because of the continent's great age, its extremely variable weather patterns, and its long-term geographic isolation, much of Australia's biota is unique and diverse. About 85% of flowering plants, 84% of mammals, more than 45% of birds, and 89% of in-shore, temperate-zone fish are endemic.[60] Australia has the greatest number of reptiles of any country, with 755 species.[61] Many of Australia's ecoregions, and the species within those regions, are threatened by human activities and introduced plant and animal

species. The federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is a legal framework for the protection of threatened species. Numerous protected areas have been created under the national Biodiversity Action Plan to protect and preserve unique ecosystems; 64 wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention, and 15 natural World Heritage Sites have been established.[62] Australia was ranked 46th of 149 countries in the world on the 2008 Environmental Performance Index.[63] Australian forests often contain a wide variety of eucalyptus trees and are mostly located in higher rainfall regions. Most Australian woody plant species are evergreen and many are adapted to fire and drought, including many eucalypts and acacias. Australia has a rich variety of endemic

legume species that thrive in nutrient-poor soils because of their symbiosis with rhizobia bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi. Among well-known Australian fauna are the monotremes (the platypus and the echidna); a host of marsupials, including the kangaroo, the koala, and the wombat; the saltwater and freshwater crocodiles; and birds such as the emu and the kookaburra. Australia is home to many dangerous animals including some of the most venomous snakes in the world.[64] The dingo was introduced by Austronesian people who traded with Indigenous Australians around 3000 BCE.[65] Many plant and animal species became extinct soon after first human settlement,[66] including the Australian megafauna; others have become extinct since European settlement, among them the thylacine.[67]

Climate change has become an increasing concern in Australia in recent years,[68] with many Australians considering protection of the environment to be the most important issue facing the country.[69] The first Rudd Ministry has initiated several emission reduction activities;[70] Rudd's first official act, on his first day in office, was to sign the instrument of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. Nevertheless Australia's carbon dioxide emissions per capita are one of the highest in the world, lower than only a few other industrialised nations including the United States and Canada. Rainfall in Australia has slightly increased over the past century, both nationwide and for two quadrants of the nation,[71] while annual mean temperatures increased significantly over the past