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

11. Refugia in South Australia (continued)

11.10. Reference number SA10

Refuge area: Coongie Lakes

Biogeographic region: Channel Country

Type of refuge: Wetland

Lat./Long. 27°10’S / 140°15’E

Quality of refuge: Highly significant (6)

Area (km²): <10,000

Chief refuge value

The Coongie Lakes system provides habitat for an extensive range of plants and vertebrate and invertebrate animals, both aquatic and terrestrial, in an otherwise arid and waterless environment.

General description

The many waterbodies of the Coongie Lakes system fill from flows along the North-west Branch of the Cooper Creek1. Some of the Lakes – Coongie, Marroocoolcannie, Marroocutchanie, Toontoowaranie and Goyder – fill regularly, whereas others receive water occasionally from big flows. These waterholes and lakes provide “drought refuge for the wide range of aquatic fauna...when dry seasonal conditions persist for a year or more”1.

ANZECC-listed species

Reports of the night parrot Geopsittacus occidentalis (E) remain unconfirmed1. The plant Frankenia plicata (E) is known1.

Regional endemics

The Cooper Creek tortoise Emydura sp. is endemic to the lower Cooper, South Australia1.

Relict species

The grass Echinochloa inundata occurs; other species of concern in this vicinity include Frankenia cupularis, Goodenia lobata and Phlegmatospermum eremaeum1.

Other significant species

There is an impressive array of aquatic fauna (fish, frogs, waterbirds, the Cooper Creek tortoise, water rat, and countless invertebrates). Dense lignum beds adjacent to lakes or channels harbour the long-haired rat Rattus villosissimus; between plagues the species shrinks to small pockets in perennially damp locations within the Channel Country. The Coongie Lakes wetlands are considered to provide habitat for two uncommon waterbirds, the white-winged tern Chlidonias leucoptera and pectoral sandpiper Calidris melanotos. The Cooper Creek catfish Neosilurus sp., Gilbert’s water dragon Gemmatophora gilberti, an undescribed species of the frog Cyclorana, and an outlying population of water rat Hydromys chrysogaster characterise the area. In addition, the bush thick-knee Burhinus grallarius is present, along with freckled duck Stictonetta naevosa, grey falcon Falco hypoleucos, brolga Grus rubicundus, Australian bustard Ardeotis kori, painted snipe Rostratula benghalensis, and yellow chat Ephthianura crocea.

Key threats

Land degradation due to over-grazing by cattle and rabbits; damage to riverine and aquatic systems due to increasing tourist visitation.

Land tenure

Innamincka Regional Reserve.

Key references

1. Reid and Gillen (1988)