Natural Environment Desert

Climate

The climate of the Desert subregion is hot and arid. Rainfall in this region can be variable and unpredictable in parts or it can be summer or winter dominant.

Tropical cyclones can sometimes cross the coast and penetrate well inland to the Desert subregion. Their winds rapidly lose strength as they pass over the land, however the rains can reach deep inland.

Hydrology

Hydrology of the Desert subregion is limited to short ephemeral creeks and rivers, which only flow after heavy rainfalls. In the northern limits of the Great Sandy Desert IBRA region there are the Rudall River, Cotton River and Dragon Tree Soak. The Rudall River flows about 120 km into Lake Dora and is a significant wetland/ecological refuge for the region as it contains major permanent waterholes and soaks. Dragon Tree soak is a freshwater spring that supplies freshwater to the marsh and peatland.

Desert

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The desert region also has a number of salt lakes e.g. Lake Disappointment and Lake Mackay.

Flora and Fauna

Biodiversity of the Desert varies across extensive terrestrial ecosystems. Each of the IBRA subregions within the desert region support a number of threatened flora and fauna species.

The Great Sandy Desert supports 1 threatened plant species and 30 threatened animal species. The Little Sandy Desert supports 1 threatened plant species and 6 threatened animal species. Almost 12% of the Gibson Desert is protected in reserves and the bioregion supports 5 threatened animal species. More than 15% of the Great Victoria Desert is protected in reserves and the bioregion supports 9 threatened plant species and 24 threatened animal species. More than 15% of the Central Ranges is protected in reserves and the bioregion supports 3 threatened plant species and 23 threatened animal species. The Tanami IBRA subregion supports 1 threatened plant and 25 threatened animal species.

Vegetation

Vegetation of the desert subregion is predominately desert grasslands e.g. hummock grasslands, scattered trees and shrubs e.g. eucalypts, Acacia, Hakea and Grevillea, and mulga parkland.

IBRA Subregions

The Desert contains six IBRA sub-regions: Great Sandy Desert, Little Sandy Desert, Gibson Desert, Great Victoria Desert, Central Ranges and Tanami. To read more about IBRA subregions, and to access the Australian Government’s detailed descriptions of each, see the IBRA subregions page.