Geography and History of the World © 2010 Indiana Edition

Chapter 34: The Region Today: Australia and Oceania

Chapter Overviews

Although there are some mineral resources in the region, agriculture and service industries play the most important economic role. The region has many unique animal and plant species, but the environment is threatened by pollution, including fallout from nuclear testing decades ago.

The Economy Agriculture is the most important activity in the region. Both Australia and New Zealand export large quantities of farm products such as wool, dairy products, lamb, and beef. The lack of arable soil in Oceania largely limits agriculture to subsistence farming, but in some areas cash crops such as copra, coffee, and ginger are grown. Mineral deposits are found mostly in Australia and Antarctica, but mining is either restricted or hampered because of high transportation costs. Most manufacturing activity occurs in Australia and New Zealand, while the rest of the region is less industrialized. Service industries are emerging throughout the region, and tourism plays a major role. Although coastal areas of Australia and New Zealand have well-developed road and rail systems, air and water travel are the major means of transportation. Improved transportation and communications are enabling the region to become more closely interdependent with near by regions and the rest of the world.

People and their Environment Australia is home to many unique animal species such as the kangaroo and the duck-billed platypus. These species have become threatened by the human introduction of nonnative animals. Threats to freshwater supplies are problems throughout the region. Toxic waste threatens the reefs and the ocean's food web. The testing of nuclear weapons has had major effects on the environment, and the United States has committed funds for the cleanup of past testing sites. The region also faces challenges by global atmospheric and climate changes. The ozone layer has developed a hole over the Antarctic, and the seasonal El Niño-Southern Oscillation weather pattern can cause droughts in Australia and cyclonic storms in the South Pacific. The potential melting of glaciers could cause a global rise in sea level which would flood lav lying areas, including islands. Scientists in the region, especially in antartica, are studying global warming to investigate potential causes and solutions.

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