Why is Australia only fertile around the coastal areas?

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Esther Flowers

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Esther Flowers  asked the Naked Scientists:
   
I have just listened to your show in South Africa on radio 702.....and I have a question that has puzzled me for years.

"Why is Australia as a Continent only fertile around the coastal areas, and virtually the entire middle section of the Continent is dry and barren."  

When I was in Australia a few years ago I asked several people, and the best answer I got from a tourist guide was..."Because it doesn't rain there!" Please can YOU help me..

Many thanks
Esther

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Offline Bored chemist

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Why is Australia only fertile around the coastal areas?
« Reply #1 on: 09/09/2009 19:29:36 »
The tourist guide was right.
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Offline chris

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Why is Australia only fertile around the coastal areas?
« Reply #2 on: 10/09/2009 08:27:08 »
I think it was a lot greener at one time - until about 40,000 years ago - and then large chunks of it - like the Nullabor - turned into desert.

One suggestion is that burning initiated by early human settlers (aborigines) may have altered the ecosystem, destroying the greenery and trees and in turn altering the conditions...

Chris
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Offline Don_1

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Why is Australia only fertile around the coastal areas?
« Reply #3 on: 10/09/2009 08:41:34 »
Yep, most of Australia is semi arid to arid desert. Rainfall can be heavy at times, when it actually does rain, which is rare, but with summer day time temperatures of around 40oC and winter around 24oC, what rain does fall very quickly evaporates.

In fact the evaporation rate is higher than the rainfall rate.
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