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

10. Refugia in Western Australia

10.1. Reference number WA1

Refuge area: Dampier Archipelago

Biogeographic region: Pilbara

Type of refuge: Islands

Lat./Long. 20°20’ - 20°45’S / 116°25’ - 117°00’E

Quality of refuge: Highly significant (5)

Area (km²): <1,000

Chief refuge value

Turtle and seabird breeding ground; many islands are refuges from foxes and cats; numerous significant species of mammal and reptile occur.

General description

Approximately 42 islands off the north-west coast of WA; 25 of 42 islands are nature reserves. Major islands are: Dolphin, Enderby, West Lewis, Legendre, Rosemary, East Lewis, Angel, and Gidley. Islands vary in size up to 32 km² (Dolphin). Some islands are steep and rugged with enormous rock piles with valleys in between (Dolphin, Angel, Gidley), others have a rock-type of basalt and are not as steep and are more undulating (East and West Lewis, Enderby and Rosemary), while others are made up of coastal limestone and are low and fairly flat (Legendre, Hauy and Delambre)1.

ANZECC-listed species

Turtles (green, loggerhead, flatback and hawksbill)- breeding grounds2 6. There is a significant rookery of hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata (V) on Rosemary Island (several hundred nest each year), on Delambre Island, and probably on other islands6. Green turtles Chelonia mydas (V) may nest on Legendre Island6. Loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta (E) nest occasionally on Rosemary Island6.

Regional endemics

Dolphin Island Euro Macropus robustus rubens1.

Relict species

None identified.

Other significant species

Mammals1: Petrogale rothschildi (Dolphin, Enderby and Rosemary Islands); Rattus tunneyi (Legendre, West Lewis and Enderby Islands); Dasyurus hallucatus (Dolphin Island); Zyzomys argurus (Dolphin and Rosemary Islands).

Reptiles: Flatback turtles Chelonia depressa, an Australian regional endemic, nests on islands6. Dugong Dugong dugon occur in reasonable numbers1.

Birds: 14 species of sea bird nest on the islands; beach thick-knee Esacus magnirostris occur1 3.

Key threats

Foxes present on Depuch, Dolphin, Angel, Gidley and Legendre Islands with possibility of getting to other islands; industrial development of the Pilbara resulting in use of islands as part of port facilities and their connection to the mainland via causeways to facilitate loading of raw materials for shipment; tourist development on islands, including recreational facilities for visitors from nearby Pilbara towns1.

Land tenure

Some islands are nature reserves.

Key references

1. Burbidge and Prince (1972)

2. Thomson (1991)

3. Garnett (1992)

4. Ride and Neumann (1964)

5. Christensen (1986)

6. Prince (pers. comm.)

7. Burbidge (1989)

8. Kinnear et al. (1984)