“Where is Tasmania?” asked my Minnesota parents when I Skype called their land line. “It sounds like a fairy land.”
It is a fairy land of gorgeous coasts, wild rivers, and high mountains that is an island state of Australia—the last significant land mass before Antarctica. I am spending a few days vacationing in Cradle Mountain National Park here in Tasmania between Australian work assignments.
Hiking from 900 meters up through the southern temperate rain forest to subalpine vistas of craggy peaks, I was struck how similar the forest felt to the northern temperate rain forest where I live. Temperatures are comparable in this shoulder season between summer and winter. Moss covers every downed log. There are very few understory plants because little light can get to the forest floor past the tall trees. Downed logs serve as nursery logs for young, upstart trees. Green is the operative color and big is the operative size of trees.
However, none of the plant or animal species are the same. Here there are three poisonous snakes. Back home there are none. Here there are no large mammalian predators. Back home there are cougar and bear. (Tasmanians could make a strong case for which scenario they prefer!)Here all the mammals are marsupial—wallabies, wombats, and pademelons. Back home there are no marsupials.
The King Billy Pine found only in Tasmania occupies a niche comparable to the giant Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, and western red cedar of home. The largest “leafy tree” here is the myrtle beech, which is not deciduous, unlike the big leaf maple back home.
Everywhere our beautiful earth has evolved with the changes of ice ages, volcanoes, tectonic plate shifts, and intruding meteorites. It is a stunning things to have the privilege to view so much diversity . . . and it brings me great hope for the future adaptations that must happen.