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The American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia was
sponsored by the National Geographic Society and the Smithsonian Institution in the United States and the
Commonwealth Government of Australia. During 1948, two anthropologists, an archaeologist, four biological scientists
and three health and nutrition experts, with two photographers and three support staff, spent eight months studying the
ecology of this infertile, monsoonal landscape to learn how the present-day Aborigines who had arrived between 3500 and
5000 years ago - displacing the first hunter-gatherers, the Mimi, who arrived some 53,000 to 60,000 years before - were
able to survive throughout the year.
The Gondwanan origins of the heathy flora of the sandstones, the grassy eucalypt forests and woodlands on the lateritic
earths, the monsoonal rainforests, the wetland and coastal plant communities -with vegetation structures similar to those
in southern Australia - inspired long-term research on the physico-chemical processes (aerodynamic, water relations and
mineral nutrition) that determine the structure, growth and biodiversity of plant formations throughout Australia.
The cooperative research that was fostered between the United States and Australia during the 1948 Arnhem Land
Expedition has continued over the last sixty years in the Fulbright Program, the UNESCO Arid Zone Research
Programme, the International Biological Programme (especially in the Arid Zone Biome, the Grassland Biome, the
Mediterranean-climate Biome, the Heathland Biome, the Wet-Dry Tropical Biome and Rainforest Biome Programs), the
International Union for the Conservation of Nature and, since the 1990s, the International Geosphere-Biosphere
Programme to tackle Global Warming.