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By Donald S. Garden

Of curiosity to scholars and teachers alike, this booklet presents a much-needed synthesis of the new literature at the environmental background of Australia and Oceania. Charting the construction of the Australian continent from the traditional land mass of Gondwanaland to the arriving of people, this booklet maps out the main tendencies within the region's environmental history.

Especially interesting are the chapters highlighting how successive waves of human migration created environmental havoc during the sector, resulting in the cave in of the Easter Island civilization and the unfold of nonindigenous wildlife. From the controversies over the explanations why creatures reminiscent of the marsupial lion and the enormous kangaroo grew to become extinct to such modern difficulties as deforestation and worldwide warming, this e-book comprises sobering classes for us all.

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As a result, the polar ice caps grew, and more moisture was retained on the planet’s land masses in the form of ice and snow. Rainfall declined and the Australian continent became much more arid, its inland waters largely drying up. Lake Mungo became a dry bed, its former shores marked by the bone- and shellridden windblown sand lunettes, which now attract tourists and archaeologists. As the climate became drier, and as naturally occurring fires were more frequent, large areas of forests died out and the remnants restricted essentially to southern regions and the eastern coastal fringe.

The region was a place of origin of many edible roots, tubers, and fruits, which in time became tropical crops, including species of bananas, taro, sugarcane, and breadfruit. , it seems many of these food plants were being cultivated. In the New Guinea Highlands, raised garden beds were constructed on the former wetlands of valley bottoms, 37 38 Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific a technique that was later commonly used on many Pacific islands. Whether this embryonic agriculture was a spontaneous development or if it resulted from interaction with Southeast Asia is not clear.

DNA studies of lizards and Pacific rats that accompanied Polynesian voyages confirm the rapidity of the spread into and across the Pacific, the extent of interconnections within Polynesia, and the likelihood of some return voyaging even perhaps to the apexes of the Polynesian triangle, Hawai’i, Rapa Nui, and New Zealand (Matisoo-Smith et al. 1998; Austin 1999). Another interesting theory provides an explanation for the impressive bulk of many Polynesian people. Philip Houghton links these voyages to a physiological adaptation by Polynesians to the cold conditions at sea and the cool breezes of the islands to account for their often large physiques (Houghton 1996; see A to Z, Polynesia).

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