[First passages from the Introduction]: Rainforest is one of the most important ecosystems found in Australia. It occurs patchily along the east coast and (as monsoonal forest) across the north of the continent. Rainforest itself is of very limited extent, covering some 1.8 million hectares—scarcely 0.24% of the total land surface (Miller, 1974). Since the arrival of European man widespread clearing has taken place. Baur (1957), for example, estimated that only 50% of the rainforests of New South Wales now remain, while Floyd (in Colley, 1975) recently put the figure at 10%. The patchy or “island” occurrence of rainforest has also been accentuated by man’s activities. Apart from total clearance for agricultural purposes, rainforests are also selectively logged for timber, some 3.5% of timber production in 1972/73 being from this source. At the same time rainforests are a major source of inspiration, enjoyment and recreation for man and a rich store of biological information. The recreational value of rainforests can be gauged from the estimate that some 59,000 people visited Lamington Park alone during 1972 (Colley, 1975). The exceptional biological richness of rainforests is well exemplified by the fact that 81 (15%) of the 531 species of Australian land and freshwater birds are specific to or reach their greatest abundance in rainforest (Keast, 1959, 1961).
Botanical studies of east Australian rainforests have a long history, although they have been largely concerned with plant systematics until recently. It was not until the late 1950s that the first detailed classifications of east Australian rainforests became available, together with a better understanding of the environmental factors that determine their distribution. Two classifications were developed almost concurrently, one floristic (Baur, 1957) and the other structural/physiognomic (Webb, 1956, 1959). Baur limited his floristic classification to the rainforests of New South Wales. He recognised four main subformations (or leagues), which he referred to as tropical, subtropical, temperate and dry rainforests, and within these subformations he defined six alliances and some 18 associations. Briefly, his tropical rainforests were characterised especially by the Black and White Booyongs … [cont.]