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

13. Refugia in Queensland (continued)

13.8. Reference number QLD8

Refuge area: Queensland Channel Country

Biogeographic region: Channel Country

Type of refuge: Ecological refuge/Refuge from exotic animals

Lat./Long. Centred on 25°S / 141°E

Quality of refuge: Extremely significant (7)

Area (km²): >10,000

Chief refuge value

Habitat for several endangered and vulnerable species; the presence of significant wetlands; and the presence of major floodplain systems providing dependable plant production for a variety of consumers.

General description

A massive system of drainage channels of the Cooper, the Diamantina and Eyre Creek coursing through extensive sandplains, dunefields, alluvial clay plains, and minor areas of low hills1, 2. The extensive braided stream systems, overflows, backplains, terminal floodplain lakes, and dunefield swales provide an extraordinary range of environments, from highly ephemeral wetlands through persistent swamps to permanent waterholes, all of which are surrounded by very arid country. Flooding occurs from rainfall in the catchments beyond the area; some flooding occurs virtually every year, but its extent is highly variable. Those parts of the system receiving relatively regular flooding represent highly significant habitats in the arid Australian environment, which in general terms is characterised by great uncertainty of plant production. The area also supports several endangered and vulnerable organisms2, 3, 4, 5.

ANZECC-listed species

The kowari Dasyuroides byrnei (E) occurs at scattered localities3. In Queensland, the bilby Macrotis lagotis (V) has contracted during this century to this area4, 5. The plains-wanderer Pedionomus torquatus (V) occurs patchily6. The night parrot Geopsittacus occidentalis (E) occurs just to the north7. Among plants, records include Bosistoa transversa, Eremophila tetraptera, Goodenia megasepala, Ptilotus maconochiei, Sclerolaena blakei and Xerothamnella parvifolia (all V)8, 9.

Regional endemics

The skinks Ctenotus astarte, C. aphrodite and C. serotinus are endemic, and an unidentified blind snake Ramphotyphlops is recorded2. Few plants are endemic, however: Ptilotus remotiflorus, Acacia ammophila and Crinum pestilentis10.

Relict species

The grey grasswren Amytornis barbatus occurs as an isolated and taxonomically distinct form at isolated localities northward along the Diamantina and Cooper11.

Other significant species

Freckled ducks Stictonetta naevosa are associated with large waterholes in Lake Bullawarra, Diamantina Lakes, Adria Downs and Glengyle, and peregrine falcons Falco peregrinus are scattered throughout the area2. Several plant species of conservation concern exist: Atriplex fissivalvis, A. lobativalvis, A. morrisii, Brachycome tesquorum, Eremophila alatisepala, Eremophila strongylophylla, Euphorbia sarcostemmoides, Frankenia flabellata, Glinus orygioides, Goodenia angustifolia, Ptilotus pseudohelipteroides, Rulingia salvifolia and Sclerolaena blackiana8, 9, 12.

The Queensland Channel Country exhibits the highest diversity of all terrestrial classes of vertebrates on the basis of fauna surveys during the past 15 years: some 22 species of frogs, 130 reptiles, 230 birds, and 35 mammals2. It also includes the Elizabeth Springs mentioned above in section 13.2. On the basis of the distribution of certain rare vertebrates and plants listed above, a series of six “key areas” has been proposed, based upon the presence of rare species and the apposition of many different vegetational formations2, 9. A dominant feature of most of these key areas appears to be the presence of floodouts, channels and lakes associated with the Diamantina and the Cooper.

Given the size of the area and its undoubted biological significance, it seems premature to designate precise localities for biological refugia before more inventories and research have been conducted.

Key threats

Over-grazing by stock, by rabbits, and by feral animals; predation on endangered species by introduced predators.

Land tenure

Diamantina Lakes National Park, Bladensburg National Park, Thrushton National Park, pastoral leases.

Key references

1. Blackman et al. (1993)

2. McFarland (1992)

3. Lim in 2

4. Gordon et al. (1990)

5. Southgate (1990)

6. Baker-Gabb et al. (1990)

7. Boles et al. (1994)

8. Neldner (1991)

9. Wilson and Young (1994)

10. Boyland (1984)

11. Schodde and Christidis (1987)

12. Thomas and McDonald (1989)