Biodiversity publications archive

Refugia for biological diversity in arid and semi-arid Australia

Biodiversity Series, Paper No. 4
S.R. Morton, J. Short and R.D. Barker, with an Appendix by G.F. Griffin and G. Pearce
Biodiversity Unit
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1995

12. Refugia in the Northern Territory (continued)

12.11. Reference number NT11

Refuge area: Eastern MacDonnell Ranges

Biogeographic region: MacDonnell Ranges

Type of refuge: Mountain ranges

Lat./Long. 23° to 23°45’S / 134° to 135°20’E

Quality of refuge: Extremely significant (8)

Area (km²): <10,000

Chief refuge value

A complex of gorges and mountain ranges providing habitat for endemic and relict plant species, for some threatened species of plants and animals, and probably for many invertebrate species.

General description

A suite of ranges of diverse geological origin running roughly east from Alice Springs for 100 km. The Ranges contain many high ridgetops with unusual flora and fauna; they also include moist gorges and sometimes permanent waters in broader gorges1.

ANZECC-listed species

The black-footed rock-wallaby Petrogale lateralis (V) is relatively widespread1. The “Glory-of-the-centre” Ricinocarpos gloria-medii (V) occurs at Trephina Gorge National Park and N’Dhala Gorge Nature Park2. Olearia macdonnellensis (V), a daisy shrub, is known from Arltunga1. The cycad Macrozamia macdonnellii (V) occurs in scattered pockets throughout the area1. Acacia undoolyana (V) grows in a small number of locations and is confined to the area1, 2, 3.

Regional endemics and relict species

An extraordinary radiation of camaenid land-snails exists in the MacDonnell Ranges, with many of the species apparently being confined to tiny areas. The following species are endemic to the Eastern MacDonnells: Granulomelon gilleni (from the Strangways Range), G. grandituberculatum (Harts Range), G. acerbum (Eastern MacDonnells generally), Semotrachia hortulana (Hale River basin), S. strangwayana (Strangway Range), S. rossana (near Ross River homestead), S. bensteadana (vicinity of N’Dhala Gorge), S. jessieana (only from Jessie Gap), S. emilia (only from Emily Gap), Dirutrachia sublevata (Harts Range), and Vidulomelon wattii (Harts Range)6.

Among plants, the species list given above under section 12.9 incorporates endemic and relict species from the Eastern MacDonnells. This list is compelling evidence of the extent to which the MacDonnell Ranges possess an extraordinary flora4.

Other significant species

The brushtail possum Trichosurus vulpecula is known from one location in the Atnarpa Range1, 5. Bird species of regional significance include the peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus, bush thick-knee Burhinus grallarius, and spinifex bird Eremiornis carteri1.

Key threats

Exotic vertebrates – horses, rabbits, foxes and cats – and plants – couch grass, buffel grass, and tamarisks. Grazing stock can damage refuge areas. Tourist impacts are likely to increase as visitation escalates. Finally, fire management is essential for relict species.

Land tenure

Ruby Gap Nature Park, N’Dhala Gorge Nature Park, and Arltunga Historical Reserve.

Key references

1. Gibson et al. (1992)

2. Soos et al. (1987)3. Latz et al. (1989)

4. Latz (1995)

5. Kerle et al. (1992)

6. Solem (1993)