About our name
The name Gondwana represents the ecological distinctive nature of the Southern Hemisphere, the immense biological lineage of south western Austraia, and our view of people as part of healthy ecosystems.
Gondwana originated as a Sanskrit word, describing a region in northern India. In this original use it encapsulates both people (the Gonda, a Dravidian people) and place (vana, the forest). We think ‘people of the forest’ has a good ring about it.
The phrase first came to Western notice as a geological name, following the scientific tradition that takes a local feature, names it, then applies it to broader regions that show similar characteristics. The name was first used geologically in 1873 to describe a series of sedimentary rocks in northern India, then progressively applied to identical rocks in other places. The fossils found in this series were later used to reconstruct the shape of and changes in the ancient southern supercontinent.
Australia was once part of this large ‘supercontinent’, known as Gondwana, which later separated into the southern hemisphere continents (Australia, Africa, South America and Antarctica) and India. A similar supercontinent (Laurasia) gave rise to the northern hemisphere continents.
The formation of Gondwana heralded diverging evolutionary paths for the flora and fauna of the northern and southern hemispheres, so that ‘Gondwanan’ has now come to describe those aspects of the plant and animal families that have their common origin in parts of the former supercontinent. Thus, plant families such as the Proteaceae (eg the banksias and grevilleas) and the Haemodoraceae (eg kangaroo paws) only occur in South Africa, South America and Australia and are understood to be Gondwanan in origin, as are marsupials like kangaroos.
Over the 200 million or so years following the breakup of Gondwana, forces such as Australia’s increasing isolation, changes in climate and sea level and other geological events shaped the continued evolution of Australia’s biota, making it remarkably different from that of other parts of the world. Some eminent scientists, including Stephen Hopper and Tim Flannery, have suggested that the incredible diversity of Australia’s, and particularly Western Australia’s, plant species is partly due to the long biological lineage - a relatively uninterrupted 250 million years in south western Australia – and the ancient and infertile soil surfaces that have formed following eons of weathering and erosion, with fewer major mountain building or glacial periods here compared to other lands.
As such, the name Gondwana is a useful reminder that many of the western approaches to both biological science and land use originated in the northern hemisphere, amongst landscapes and ecosystems very different from those of the Gondwanan derived systems. We choose to celebrate and affirm the biological importance of the southern hemisphere, of which south western Australian is an exceptionally rich part, and to continue the development of 'Gondwanan' science and land use.
“Link” is a word applicable to many aspects of our work. We are physically re-linking many valuable areas of bushland, which will eventually physically re-link whole ecosystems. We are also building critical links across many professions, from ecologists to political scientists, from farmers and miners to wilderness preservationists. We look forward to the time when we link the learning's from our work with those of colleagues in other Gondwanan countries. Just as importantly, the drive for much of our work comes from the strong link we feel for south western Australia. This is not some dispassionate exercise built on a clinical analysis of scientific priorities. There is a love for country, a feeling of being physically linked to the land, that keeps us moving forward.
And then there are the links being built between us all. Gondwana Link has brought together a previously disparate array of organizations and individuals to work cooperatively, and in so doing built lasting personal and professional links. Many life-ling friendships have been formed, and the first marriage is imminent.
How does understanding origins help in conservation?
Understanding how the plants, animals and organisms evolved and how they were shaped by historical events and conditions, helps us to understand how they respond and adapt to the disturbances being experienced now. It also helps us understand the global significance of some of the more curious, rare or highly specialised biota and what might be needed to ensure their evolution continues.