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)

12.7. Reference number NT7

Refuge area: Davenport and Murchison Ranges

Biogeographic region: Tanami

Type of refuge: Gorges/mountain ranges

Lat./Long. 20°30’S / 134°30’E

Quality of refuge: Highly significant (6)

Area (km²): <10,000

Chief refuge value

The Ranges possess an extensive network of waterholes containing a rich fish fauna, a high plant diversity, and some endemic and rare plant species.

General description

The Davenport and Murchison Ranges comprise an isolated series of rocky outcrops within the north-eastern expanse of the Tanami sandplains. The presence of permanent waterholes together with the isolated nature of the Ranges has allowed the persistence of a biogeographically significant fish fauna, and has resulted in the development of a notable flora and at least one near-endemic mammal.

ANZECC-listed species

The black-footed rock-wallaby Petrogale lateralis (V), and the water-plant Rhamphicarpa australiaensis (V)1.

Regional endemics

Five plants are restricted to the Davenport and Murchison Ranges: Fimbristylis sp., Acacia sp., Acacia aff. hemsleyi, Tephrosia sp., and Wedelia aff stirlingii1. Johnson’s mouse Pseudomys johnsoni, a pebble-mound species, is primarily found in the Ranges, but it does occur in other parts of the Tanami Region2.

Relict species

None identified, although at least some plants are likely to be relictual1.

Other significant species

Seven species of fish occur in the catchments of Whistleduck Creek and the Frew River: Leiopotherapon unicolor, Ambassis agrammus, Nematolosa erebi, Mogurnda mogurnda, Melanotaenia splendida tatei, Amniataba percoides. High plant diversity springs from an overlap of central Australian and Barkly Tableland floras. The most important rare species are Trachymene inflata, Psoralea walkingtonii, Brachyachne prostrata, Elacholoma hornii, Glycine aff. tomentella, Hedyotis sp., Phyllanthus aff. simplex, Triumfetta plumigera, and Vernonia cinerea. Nevertheless, the Murchison and Davenport Ranges contain fewer rare, relict or endemic plants than the MacDonnell Ranges and George Gill Ranges further south1.

Key threats

Degradation resulting from donkeys and cattle; wildfires.

Land tenure

Pastoral leases.

Key references

1. Johnson et al. (1984)

2. Kitchener (1985)