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

4. Foci of biological diversity in Western Australia (continued)

4.3. Dampierland


89,595 km².

Primary land-use

Extensive cattle grazing.

National Parks and Nature Reserves

Windjana Gorge, Tunnel Creek and Geikie Gorge National Parks.

Management problems

In the Edgar Ranges, cattle grazing, and foxes are present although rare. There are reports of damage by livestock to river pools in the north-west and further into the deserts (Lane and McComb 1988, p.139).

ANZECC-listed species

The bilby Macrotis lagotis (V) was recorded in the Edgar Ranges in 1976. Tunnel Creek (in the Napier Range) is one of the most important roost sites in the Kimberley for the ghost bat Macroderma gigas (V)

Species that are regionally endemic

Reptiles: An agamid Diporiphora pindan, the skinks Lerista apoda, L. robusta, L. separanda and L. simillima, and an elapid snake Simoselaps minimus (Cogger 1992).

Plants: Significant vegetation in the Edgar Ranges includes Pandanus spiralis var. flammeus, Ptilotus kenneallyanus and Pityrodia ovata (Kenneally 1981).

Relict populations

The Oscar and Napier Ranges constitute a region of massive limestone features that shelter relict species (Keighery and Gibson 1993). "These limestone ramparts formed a barrier reef about 350 million years ago; today they are a treasure-house of endemic species and fossil deposits" (Kenneally and McKenzie 1991). The Ranges include Geikie Gorge, Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek. They support a large number of relict and endemic land snails and cave-dwelling invertebrates. Twenty-one species of camaenid land snails are endemic to the ranges (genera Amplirhagada, Westraltrachia, Rhagada, Kimboraga, Kendrickia, Mouldinigia and Quisrachia); also one species of pupillid land snail Gyliotrachela napierana (Solem 1981, 1984). The trees Ficus platypoda and Ficus opposita var. indecora occur in gorges throughout the Region.

Other significant populations

Information on waterbirds is noted below.

Wetland sites

Roebuck Bay: The Bay, immediately south of Broome, is one of the most important migration stopover points for shorebirds in Australia, and is also of global significance (Jaensch and Lane 1993). The waterbirds are highly diverse: 64 species have been recorded, 34 of which are listed under treaties. The Bay is a Ramsar wetland.

Eighty Mile Beach System: As with Roebuck Bay, this area provides a globally significant stopover point for migratory flocks of waders before they move south to estuaries and lakes of southern Australia (Lane 1987; Jaensch and Lane 1993).

Camballin Floodplain: A major post-breeding refuge for waterbirds in the Kimberley region; a major breeding area for some waterbirds; and a major migration stop-over area for shorebirds (Jaensch and Lane 1993). A riverine floodplain contiguous with the Fitzroy River floodplain. Distinct wetlands include LeLievre Swamp, Moulamen Swamp, 17 Mile Dam, several unnamed swamps and Snake Creek. Sixty-seven waterbird species are recorded, 20 of them listed under treaties. Thirteen migrant shorebirds have been recorded. The marshes are also regionally significant for yellow chat Ephthianura crocea. Freckled duck Stictonetta naevosa have been recorded at Moulamen Swamp (Jaensch and Lane 1993).

Mandora salt marsh: A complex of wetlands extending from 80 Mile Beach about 100 km inland into the Great Sandy Desert (Jaensch and Lane 1993). The complex consists of large claypans joined by Salt Creek, and includes Mandora Soak and Eil Eil and Grant Springs. The claypans are up to 23 km long surrounding 10 km wide saline marshes. Springs and creek are permanent; most of the claypans hold water seasonally. Freshwater and swamp plants and animals are isolated by a sandy desert environment. The typical plant species of fresh water swamps – paperbark Melaleuca argentea, dragon trees Sesbania formosa, sedge Schoenoplectus litoralis, bulrush Typha domingensis and fern Acrostichum speciosum – are isolated by an arid environment. Sixteen waterbirds have been recorded.

Tunnel Creek: Tunnel Creek passes under the Napier Range via a cave. Cave pools are permanent (up to 2 m deep in the dry season), although the Creek is seasonal (Jaensch and Lane 1993). The cave is one of the most important roost sites in the Kimberley for the ghost bat. The orange horseshoe-bat Rhinonicterus aurantius and another bat Eptesicus douglasi, which is endemic to the north-west Kimberley, also roost in the cave system. An undescribed rainbow fish Melanotaenia sp. occurs.


The caves of the Oscar and Napier Ranges (see section 10.11), Camballin Floodplain (10.18), the Roebuck Plains (10.19), the Mandora salt marsh (10.23), Windjana Gorge (10.25), Geikie Gorge (10.26), Tunnel Creek (10.27) and the Edgar Ranges (10.30) all appear to possess value as refugia.