ISLAND JEWELS: The natural history of Western Australia’s islands


This is the first book to describe the biodiversity and natural history of Western Australia’s (WA) more than 3000 islands, almost all of which are either national parks, nature reserves, or Indigenous Protected Areas; a situation unique world-wide. Western Australia is in the unique position of having a globally-significant heritage of continental islands unaffected by ice and to a large extent by human contact. Many of these islands retain large breeding populations of seabirds, seals, and sea turtles. All have elements of an ancient fauna and flora that characterise the biota of Australia: marsupials, parrots, endemic genera of plants, etc. The conspicuous species of some of WA’s islands have been known to Europeans since the 17th Century. These visits by the Dutch and English have no parallel with other Australian islands. Natural history observations made then are recounted in this book.

These islands, as well as being a critical part of the reserve system conserving WA’s biodiversity, provide attractive opportunities for scientists to study the ecology, genetics, phylogeny, and biogeography of species. In particular, archipelagoes constitute natural laboratories where the processes of immigration and extinction have acted to unequal extents, resulting in unique combinations of species of plant, reptile, terrestrial bird, and mammal species. Some of these islands provide attractive opportunities for tourism. This book, comprehensively researched by the two leading WA authorities in island research and management, offers insights into the natural history of WA’s islands. It is the first book to accomplish this. It will be a valuable addition to the library of anyone interested in the value and conservation of islands and the wider environment.

The book is written in a style which minimises the use of technical language. However, some scientific terms and concepts are unavoidable, but their meaning is carefully explained in a glossary. The book should appeal to natural historians, birdwatchers, citizen scientists, scientists, historians, tourists, and visitors to WA islands (including recreational boat owners). The intended readership ranges from upper High School to adult. The book is fully referenced and indexed, and includes 134 colour photographs and 23 maps.

Arranged geographically, the book takes the reader on a journey from the Kimberley south along the west coast to Cape Leeuwin, and then east along the south coast to the Archipelago of the Recherche. It is well illustrated, mainly with the authors’ colour photographs, and includes many maps.

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Dr Ian Abbott worked as a research scientist and manager in several Western Australian departments from 1979 to 2014. Much of his research was in jarrah forest ecology (plants, soil fauna including earthworms, birds and the impact of logging and fire on these species). His island research mostly took place in the 1970s and emphasised the development of better conceptual models of how island ecosystems function and the evaluation of the many factors that influence island ecology.

Dr Andrew A Burbidge AO worked as a research scientist and manager for a series of Western Australian conservation departments from 1968 to 2002, where he had a strong focus on threatened species. His research and management work included conservation reserve design and selection; biological survey, especially in the Kimberley, western deserts and islands; island research and management including the eradication of invasive species, translocations and biosecurity; and indigenous oral history of mammals and fire.

The authors have visited more than 400 WA islands during the past 50 years and have an unrivalled knowledge of their fauna, flora, and ecosystems. Their observations and studies have resulted in nearly 80 papers published mostly in science and natural history journals. Their familiarity with the published contributions of many other scientists and naturalists makes this book unusually comprehensive and significant.