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)

4.10. Murchison


278,360 km².

Primary land-use

Mining, grazing by sheep.

National Parks and Nature Reserves

Goongarrie National Park and Wanjarri Nature Reserve.

Management problems

Wanjarri Nature Reserve – weeds, wildfire, and increasing numbers of tourists largely due to close proximity to gold and nickel mines.

Land degradation due to over-grazing (Wilcox and Cunningham 1994) and to goats (Freudenberger 1993).

ANZECC-listed species

Birds: Malleefowl Leipoa ocellata (E) at Wanjarri Nature Reserve (Keally and Chapman 1991); also Alexandra's parrot Polytelis alexandrae (V).

Species that are regionally endemic

The elapid snake Pseudechis butleri (Cogger 1992)..

Relict populations

The agamid Egernia kintorei (Cogger et al. 1993, pp. 88-90).

Other significant populations

Many surveys have revealed a rich vertebrate fauna and an extensive flora, but generally the species are widely distributed (Dell et al. 1992; How et al. 1992; Hall et al. 1994). The Region comprises a rich interzone between the arid and mesic biotas of south-western Australia, corresponding roughly to the "line" between the mulga/spinifex country and the eucalypt environments (Dell et al. 1988; McKenzie and Hall 1992).

Birds: Wanjarri Nature Reserve contains striated grass wren Amytornis striatus, Australian bustard Ardeotis kori, bush thick-knee Burhinus grallarius, and regent parrot Polytelis anthopeplus (Keally and Chapman 1991).

Plants: Dell et al. (1988) recorded the rare plant Calytrix watsonii. Leigh et al. (1984) noted Hemigenia exilis (p. 234) and H. tysoni (p. 236).

Wetland sites

Waterbirds occur throughout ephemeral wetlands of the interior (Lane and McComb 1988). One of particular importance is Lake Barlee, an intermittent salt lake where up to 200,000 nests of the banded stilt Cladorhynchus leucocephalus may be used about once every 10 years when the Lake floods (Burbidge and Fuller 1982; Jaensch and Lane 1993).

Aneen Lake is a large (12,000 ha) salt lake south-west of Meekatharra with numerous islands and peninsulas, comprising a seasonal, intermittent saline or brackish lake and marsh. Some parts of the Lake are likely to hold shallow water in most years; the whole system fills every 5-10 years from summer-autumn rain. The Lake is a regular and major breeding area for gull-billed tern Gelochelidon nilotica and whiskered tern Chlidonias hybrida. It also supports several thousand waterbirds when full (Jaensch and Lane 1993).

Wooleen Lake is a floodplain lake with associated marshes on Roderick River, which outflows to the Murchison River 6 km downstream. It experiences some inundation in most years, and the whole lake and surrounding marshes fill once every 5-10 years. The Lake may be several metres deep when full. The Lake is a major breeding area for gull-billed terns Gelochelidon nilotica (Jaensch and Lane 1993).


Annen Lake (see section 10.20), Wooleen Lake (10.22) and Lake Barlee (10.24) all qualify as refugia.