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

4. Foci of biological diversity in Western Australia (continued)

4.2. Ord-Victoria Plain


53,004 km².

Primary land-use

Cattle grazing, tourism.

National Parks and Nature Reserves

Gregory National Park (Northern Territory). Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park, Purnululu Conservation Reserve (Western Australia).

Management problems

Feral livestock (donkey and cattle), presence of cat, horse, pig, camel and water buffalo (feral donkeys (McCool et al. 1981; Freeland and Choquenot 1990; Woinarski 1992), uncontrolled tourism (damage to tracks, delicate rock outcrops in Purnululu (Christensen and Haynes 1986/7), and integration of Aboriginal aspirations into landscape management. These management issues are discussed at length by Woinarski (1992).

ANZECC-listed species

Birds: Gouldian finch Erythrura gouldiae (E) (one record only, in 1989). Woinarski (1992) regarded the Bungle Bungle area has having "little conservation significance for this species".

Species that are regionally endemic

An agamid lizard Cryptagama aurita, a skink Lerista bunglebungle, and an elapid snake Suta ordensis (Cogger 1992).

Relict populations

Sheltered gorges of Bungle Bungle massif provide habitat for relicts of wetter climate: the fern Taenitis pinnata, the undescribed palm Livistona sp. 'Victoria River', resurrection grass Micaira sp., the daisy Erigeron ambiguus from ephemeral watercourses, and Grevillea psilantha, Lindernia sp. nov., Stemodia sp. nov., and Plectrachne sp. nov. from the chasm walls (Menkhorst and Cowie 1992). The gorges are inaccessible to feral stock.

Permanent and semi-permanent watercourses support closed forests (the most south-easterly occurrence of such forests in Western Australia): trees such as Euodia elleryana, Syzygium angophoroides, Carallian brachiata and Ficus spp., and shrubs restricted to sheltered gorges such as Breynia rhynocarpa.

Other significant populations

Desert mouse Pseudomys desertor, ningbing antechinus Pseudantechinus ningbing, rock ringtail possum Pseudocheirus dahli, northern nail-tail wallaby Onychogalea unguifera, Kimberley Mouse Pseudomys laborifex, large-footed mouse-eared bat Myotis adversus (Woinarski 1992).

Chestnut-backed button-quail Turnix castanota occur in Purnululu (Garnett 1992). Grey falcons Falco hypoleucos also occur (Brouwer and Garnett 1990). Purple-crowned fairy-wren Malurus coronatus and chestnut-backed button-quail Turnix castanota in Gregory National Park.

Wetland sites

Purnululu has sheltered gorges with Livistona sp., Melaleuca leucadendron, Syzygium angophoroides and Euodia elleryana. They possess permanent pools with rarely recorded aquatic herbs (four species listed; Menkhorst and Cowie 1992).

Lake Argyle is a reservoir on the Ord River. It has a total area when full of 70,000 ha and is the largest man-made waterbody in Australia. The lower Ord floodplain has extensive areas of highly productive shallows and supports tens of thousands of waterbirds, principally ducks and geese (Jaensch and Lane 1993). Fish are discussed by Morrissy (1983) and waterbirds by Jaensch and Vervest (1990). Both Lake Argyle and nearby Lake Kununurra support large numbers of freshwater crocodiles. They are listed as Ramsar wetlands.


The Bungle Bungles (see section 10.28) and Lake Argyle (10.13) appear to qualify as refugia.