Australia is a continent in the Southern Hemisphere, which comprises the countries of Australia, Tasmania, Seram, New Guinea, Timor, and other neighbouring islands. It is the smallest among the seven continents of the world, and lies on a continental shelf. Shallow seas divide the continent in to the different landmasses. The Torres Strait and Arafura Sea separate the mainland of Australia and New Guinea, and the Bass Strait lies between Tasmania and mainland Australia. They were actually connected by dry land in earlier times during the time around 18,000 BC, when the sea levels were lower. It was the Pleistocene ice age then. The sea levels have risen in the past ten thousand years, and that overflowed the lands and separated the different landmasses. New Zealand is not a part of the continent of Australia, but of the separate continent of Zealandia which is submerged. Both New Zealand and Australia are parts of the wider regions well known by Oceania or Australasia.
The continent of Australia has a total land area of 8,560,000 square kilometers. It is the smallest and also the lowest lying human inhabited continent on the face of the Earth. Half of the islands on the continent are less than 50 meters deep, and the continental shelf that connects them covers around 2,500,000 square kilometers. This includes the Bass Strait and the Sahul Shelf. The country of Australia covers most of the continent as it is mostly on the single mainland landmass. As such, it is also called the island continent that is covered by oceans on all sides.
The archaeological term for the continent has always been changing. This single Pleistocene landmass was known by the name Australasia before the 1970s. This is derived from the Latin word for “southern” – australis. This is most often used for the wider [arts that cover other lands like New Zealand that are not situated on the same continent shelf. Greater Australia was a term used for the landmass in the early 1970s. Meganesia was a name suggested in 1984. It meant “Great Island” or “island group”. It was used collectively for the Pleistocene continent and also the present day lands. In other case, Australia Geography is suitable for everyone.
The continent is mainly situated on the Indo-Australian Plate. The continent does not have any active volcano regions as it is located centrally on the tectonic plate. It is the only continent with such a feature. The Australian landmass used to be joined with the continent of Antarctica to form the southern supercontinent called the Gondwana. This was till the plate drifted north around 96 million years. For a long time after that, Australia and New Guinea remained a continuous landmass. After the end of the last glacial period in around 10,000 BC, the Bass Strait was formed as a result of the rising sea levels. This separated Tasmania from the mainland of Australia. The lowlands in the north got flooded by the seas by around 8,000 to 6,500 BC, and this separated New Guinea, the Aru Islands, and the Australian mainland.
The migration of Australia upward and the subduction of the Pacific Plate uplifted the northern arc that included the New Guinea Islands, Halmahera, and the Raja Ampat Islands. Then, the Outer Banda Arc formed along the north-western edge. It consisted of the islands of Tanimbar, Timor, and Seram.
A unique flora, fauna, and mycobiota developed as the continent of Australia drifted northward from Antarctica. Even though the monotremes and marsupials existed on other continents as well, it was only in Australia – New Guinea that they were able to out-compete the placental mammals and dominate the area. Even bird life did prosper considerably. It was mainly the ancestors of the passerine forms that now form over 50% of the avian life on earth. The association between the Cyttaria gunnii, which is a golf ball fungi, and the other associated trees in the genus Nothofagus is notably remarkable among the fungi.
It was about 45,000 years ago that humans first started populating the continent of Australia. It started with the eastern Wallacea which included Timor, separated from mainland Sahul at that time, the Bismarck Archipelago, and also the remaining parts of Sahul. This founding population was estimated to be a minimum of several hundreds. They supposedly had a relatively sophisticated water craft. Population mixing between Sahul and Wallacea was quite less following the inhabitation time period for around 30,000 years. The mixing between the north and south of Sahul, and the east and west of Sahul was also very little.
The Australian economy is known to be one of the most stable and prosperous in the world. This has occurred due to its rapid development rate in the twentieth century. There is abundant availability of resources in the continent, making it diverse and predominantly primary sector oriented economy. The mainstays of economic growth have been grains, minerals, livestock, coal, and processed metals ever since the European settlement in 1788. It continues to play the major part in generating the revenue.
Trade is a major source of income for the people of Australia. Raw materials were exported from Australia to the Great Britain and other European countries. The trade was declined between Australia and Great Britain once Europe joined the European Union, or the EU. Australis has since then started seeking for newer markets to compensate for the loss of trade. It found markets in Asia, especially in Japan and Southeast Asia. Japan purchased a lot of agricultural products and minerals from Australia. Australia increased the exports to Europe and the United States when the financial crisis struck in the late 1990s.
The topography and the geographic position of the continent are major reasons for the continent’s economic situation. The immediate neighbors are all developing countries. Moreover, the continent is dry and has poor soils. This limits the potential of agricultural farming, and requires a lot of water and fertilizers to be imported. The interiors of the continent are suitable only for cattle grazing. Australia is mostly flat land with just a few small mountain ranges. They are low in elevation and run north south along the eastern edges. The great distances between the population centers and that between the required resources are the main obstacles for building roads and railroads.
Australia is a major exporter of agricultural goods like wool and wheat, minerals like gold and iron ore, and also energy like coal and liquefied natural gas. Investments have been made in the fields of education, health, training, transport, and other kinds of social infrastructure.
Tourism plays a huge role in the economy of the continent. The popular destinations like the coastal cities of Melbourne and Sydney, Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef and the Gold Coast, Uluru, the largest reef in the world, the Tasmanian wilderness, and the Australian outback attract a lot of tourists from al round the world. The Australian wildlife is known to be unique in its own manner, and this is a major point of interest in Australian tourism.
Australia is known to be the only nation that governs an entire continent and the outlying islands around it. The largest island is the mainland Australia. It is the flattest and the smallest continent in the world. The highest point on the mainland is the Mount Kosciuszko, which is only 2,228 meters.
Australia is known to be the driest continent on the world that is inhabited. The continent’s interiors receive the lowest amount of rainfall as compared to other parts of the world. Around 75% of the continent is either completely arid or semi-arid.