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

12. Refugia in the Northern Territory (continued)

12.12. Reference number NT12

Refuge area: Uluru and Kata Tjuta

Biogeographic region: Great Sandy Desert

Type of refuge: Ecological refuge/Mountain ranges

Lat./Long. 25°20’S / 131°E

Quality of refuge: Extremely significant (6)

Area (km²): <1,000

Chief refuge value

The presence of relatively moist environments in the vicinity of Uluru and Kata Tjuta provide habitat for rare, relict and unusual species.

General description

The monoliths Uluru and Kata Tjuta provide runoff water which finds its way into moist gorges and drainage lines where isolated populations persist in an environment otherwise characterised by infertile and dry dunefields1, 2, 3. In addition, there is a transitional sandplain lying between the mulga outwash zone around the monoliths and the dunefields beyond; this sandplain appears to be underlain by a buried drainage line, and may support vegetation with more regular plant production1, 2.

ANZECC-listed species

The mulgara Dasycercus cristicauda (V) occurs at Uluru National Park in sandplain which is transitional between the mulga outwash around Uluru and Kata Tjuta and the dunefields beyond1, 4.

Regional endemics

An undescribed and apparently relictual earthworm is known from Mutitjulu on the southern margin of Uluru1. The camaenid land-snail Basedowena olgana is known only from Kata Tjuta and Mount Conner nearby6.

The sandhill wattle Acacia ammobia occurs primarily just east of Uluru, and an undescribed grass Eragrostis sp. appears confined to Uluru7.

Relict species

The pygopodid Delma pax is represented by an apparently relict population at Uluru1. The great desert skink Egernia kintorei is known from the transitional sandplain at Uluru National Park1. The scorpion Cercophonius squama, a temperate species, occurs at Mutitjulu on the southern margin of Uluru5. Several relict plants are confined to moist gorges at Uluru and Kata Tjuta: Stylidium inaequipetalum, Parietaria debilis, Ophioglossum lusitanicum coriaceum, Isoëtes muelleri, and Triglochin calcitrapum3, 7. The grass Eriachne scleranthoides is confined to Kata Tjuta and one other location7.

Other significant species

There are significant populations at Uluru National Park of marsupial moles Notoryctes typhlops, striated grasswrens Amytornis striatus, rufous-crowned emu-wrens Stipiturus ruficeps, scarlet-chested parrots Neophema splendida, grey honeyeater Conopophila whitei, the desert mouse Pseudomys desertor, and a skink Ctenotus septenarius1.

Key threats

Foxes, cats, camels, and rabbits need to be controlled. Fire management and tourist pressure are being actively managed.

Land tenure

Uluru National Park.

Key references

1. Reid et al. (1993)

2. Saxon (1984)

3. Hooper et al. (1973)

4. Masters (1993)

5. Smith (1983)

6. Solem (1993)

7. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service (1991)