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Environmental history


Billion years BP
3.8– Emergence of life
2.5 – Oxygen starts accumulating in the Earth’s atmosphere – probably a consequence of the photosynthesis of the cyanobacteria of stromatolites
2.2 – Great oxidation event, oxygen levels reach a fortieth of present-day levels
0.5 – Plant-produced oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere reaches present levels and animal-plant co-evolution gathers momentum

Million years BP
140 – Origin of flowering plants (Angiosperms) enticing insects and animals to pollinate colourful flowers and distribute seed with sweet energy-rich food sources of pollen and nectar and sweet fruits
6-7 – Emergence of grassy plains across the world

Thousand yrs BP
42,700 World’s earliest rock art at Carpenter’s Gap in the Kimberley pre-dating the 32,000 year old palaeolithic cave paintings of Western Europe by at least 10,000 years
It depicts animals, humans and yams, the first known pictorial representation of plants by Homo sapiens
12,000Emergence and domestication of einchorn fused-head wheat in Turkey
9,500 – Farming emerges in Near East
9,000 – Farming emerges in Central Mexico
8,500 – Farming emerges in South China (Yangtze)
7,900 – Farming emerges in North China (Yellow River)
7,000 – Farming emerges in Southern and Central Andes
4,500 – Farming emerges in E USA
4,000 – Farming emerges in sub-saharan Africa

Thousand yrs BP AUSTRALIA
c.55,000 ±10,000 – AD 1788 Aboriginal occupation with trade through a network of Dreaming trails; influence of hunting on the megafauna and the impact of this through the food chain; impact of firestick farming on vegetation patterns.
c.50,000 Flightless giant emu-like Genyornis becomes extinct, possibly from human hunting
25,000-15,000 Increasing aridity, drought, vegetational stress and hunting pressure
4,000 Dingo brought to Australia
1686 Englishman John Ray provides the first biological definition of the species in his 1686 Historia Plantarum (History of plants) “… no surer criterion for determining species has occurred to me than the distinguishing features that perpetuate themselves in propagation from seed.”
1704, 1705 Engravings of Australian plants collected in Australia by William Dampier published in his travelogues
1753 • Publication of Linnaeus’s Species Plantarum which is now internationally accepted as the starting point for the modern binomial system used for plant names.
• British Museum founded as the first national museum in the world.
1768 First two Australian plants described by Dutchman Nicolas Burmann under the system of binomial nomenclature and currently named Acacia truncata and Synaphea spinulosa
1770 Sydney Parkinson completes 674 drawings on Cook’s voyage of the Endeavour including the first illustrations of Australian plants in situ.
1793-1795 Publication of Englishman James Smith’s A Specimen of the Botany of New Holland illustrated by James Sowerby: the first book devoted to New Holland flora
1801-1803 Botanist Robert Brown and botanical artist Ferdinand Bauer accompany Matthew Flinders on HMS Investigator. Flinders the first man to circumnavigate both Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) and New Holland (Australia)

1804 – 1807 Labillardière’s Novae Hollandiae Plantarum Specimen, effectively New Holland’s first Flora
1839 Tasmanian Society, Hobart
1855 Department of Crown Lands and Survey established in Victoria
1861 Crown Lands Alienation Act
1869 Suez Canal opened
1880 Formation of the Field Naturalists’ Club of Victoria
1883 Inauguration on 22 June in Sydney of the Geographical Society of Australasia (becoming the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia in 1886) with branches in Victoria and Queensland formed later in 1883
1886 Aboriginal Protection Law Act amended forcing people of mixed descent off missions.
1898 Wilson’s Promontory gazetted as a National Park but does not become a permanent park until 1908
1908 National Parks Association of Victoria (like the National Trust and in 1952 becoming Victorian National Parks Association). Wilson’s Promontory permanently gazetted
1912 West Australian Native Flora Protection Act (amended 1939)

1950 West Australian Wildlife Conservation Act (amended 1976, 1979)
1952 Formation of the Victorian National Parks Association
1965 Formation of the Archaeological Society of Victoria
1967 American Roderick Nash publishes Wilderness and the American Mind, a stimulus to both the study of environmental history and the environmental movement
1968 Little Desert National Park established in Victoria

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