Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist in referral, environmental assessment and compliance issues, refer to the Listing Advice and/or Conservation Advice and Recovery Plan. The Listing and/or Conservation Advice define the national ecological community and may include Key Diagnostic Characteristics, Condition Thresholds, Priority Research and Conservation Actions and additional considerations.
In addition, for recovery planning, mitigation and conservation information, refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice.


EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered
Date Effective 04 Apr 2001
Listing and Conservation Advices For ecological communities listed from 2013 onwards, there is no separate listing advice. Instead, the advice from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee regarding the listing status of the ecological community and recommendation regarding a recovery plan are contained within the Conservation Advice.
Commonwealth Listing Advice on The community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2001q) [Listing Advice].
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, a recovery plan would contribute to the protection, conservation and management of the listed ecological community and would provide for the research and management actions necessary to stop the decline of, and support the recovery of, the listed ecological community so that the chances of long-term survival in nature are maximised (17/11/2009).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Recovery plan for the community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin (Fensham, R.J., W.F. Ponder & R.J. Fairfax, 2010) [Recovery Plan]..
 
Federal Register of Legislative Instruments Inclusion of ecological communities in the list of threatened ecological communities under section 181 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (12/10/2007) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2007j) [Legislative Instrument].
Indicative Distribution Map(s) Map of The community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin threatened ecological community (Environment Australia, 2003j) [Indicative Map].
Distribution Map Community Distribution Map

This map has been compiled from datasets with a range of scales and quality. Species or ecological community distributions included in this map are only indicative and not meant for local assessment. Planning or investment decisions at a local scale should seek some form of ground-truthing to confirm the existence of the species or ecological community at locations of interest. Such assessments should refer to the text of the Listing Advice, which is the legal entity protected under the EPBC Act.

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

The ecological community is called 'The community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin'.

In the draft national recovery plan, Fensham and colleagues (2007) refer to the ecological community as the 'GAB discharge spring wetlands'. For brevity, the name 'Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands' will also be used in this profile.

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

The current conservation status of The community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin under Australian and State Government legislation, is as follows:

National: Listed as Endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

New South Wales: Listed as Endangered, under the name 'Artesian springs ecological community', under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. This encompasses artesian springs at the southern margins of the Great Artesian basin in north-western NSW.

Queensland: Springs in discharge areas of the Great Artesian Basin, and not located in Tertiary aquifers, that are part of the following regional ecosystems are listed as Endangered under the Vegetation Management Act 1999:

  • Regional Ecosystem 2.3.39 (Spring wetlands on recent alluvium) (Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2008a)
  • Regional Ecosystem 4.3.22 (Springs on recent alluvia and fine-grained sedimentary rock/shales) (Environmental Protection Agency 2008b)
  • Regional Ecosystem 6.3.23 (Springs on recent alluvia, ancient alluvia and fine-grained sedimentary rock/shales) (Environmental Protection Agency 2008c).


Eleven species (four animal species, seven plant species) that are threatened nationally and/or in Queensland, New South Wales and/or South Australia, and two species considered Rare in Queensland, occur in the Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands (see table below). One species is critically endangered nationally, four species are endangered nationally and two species are vulnerable nationally. Seven species are endangered in Queensland, two species are endangered in New South Wales and one species is endangered in South Australia.

Except for Dentella minutissima, all species shown in the table below are endemics known only from permanent wetlands created by natural springs arising from discharge from the Great Artesian Basin (Fensham et al. 2007). Almost 80 plant and animal species are known to be endemic to the Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands (Appendix 2 in Fensham et al. 2007; see also Description). Many invertebrate species that are restricted to the springs and often have very localised distributions, for example Hydrobiid snail species, are also considered to be endangered (Ponder & Clark 1990; Ponder 1994) although they have not been formally listed under relevant laws.

Scientific nameCommon nameConservation Status1Known Locationsc
Nat'l2Qld3NSW4SA5
Animals
Adclarkia dawsonensisBoggomoss Snail, Dawson Valley SnailCE---Boggomossd
Chlamydogobius micropterusaElizabeth Springs GobyEE--Elizabeth Springse
Chlamydogobius squamigenusaEdgbaston GobyVE--Edgbaston/Myrossf
Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnisaRed-finned Blue-eyeEE--Edgbaston/Myrossg
Plants
Arthraxon hispidusHairy-joint GrassVVV-Dawson River (spring 5)
Dentella minutissima --E-Discharge springs in NSWk
Eriocaulon carsoniiaSalt PipewortEEEECaring, Cockatoo Ck, Edgbaston/Myrossh, Lucky Lasth, Elizabeth Springsh, Gosseh, Hermit Hillh, Gammyleg, Mosesh, North Westh, Old Finnissh, Peery Lakeh,i, Petermorrah, Public Househ, Reedyh, Scotts Ck, Sulphurich, Twelveh, West Finnissh, Yowah Ckh
Eryngium fontanuma EE--Edgbaston/Myrossj, Mosesj
Myriophyllum artesium -E--Caring, Carpet, Caring, Cockatoo Ck, Coreena, Edgbaston/Myross, Elizabeth Springs, Granite, Merimo, Moses, Paroo River, Smokey, Tungum, Wooregym, Yowah Ck
Myriophyllum implicatum -RPE-Kennedy's/McKenzies
Sesbania erubescens -R--Black
Sporobolus pamelaeb -E--Coreena, Dead Sea Scrolls, Edgbaston/Myross, Kennedy's/McKenzies, Moses, Yowah Ck
Thelypteris confluens -V--Dawson River (spring 5)

1. CE = Critically Endangered; E = Endangered; PE = Presumed Extinct; R = Rare; V = Vulnerable
2. Status under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth) (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2008)
3. Status under the Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 2006 (Queensland) (Queensland Government 2006a)
4. Status under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (NSW) (NSW Scientific Committee 2007)
5. Status under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (South Australia) (South Australian Government 2008)

Sources:
a. Fensham and colleagues (2007), Table 1
b. Fensham and colleagues (2007), Appendix 2
c. All locations and location names from Fensham and colleagues (2007), Appendix 4; additional sources indicated for species follow (d. to k.)
d. Stanisic (2007)
e. Fensham and colleagues (2007a)
f. Fensham and colleagues (2007b)
g. Fensham and colleagues (2007c)
h. Fensham (2007)
i. Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) (2005a)
j. Fensham and Fairfax (2007)
k. Benson and colleagues (2006)

One population of the Boggomoss Snail (Adclarkia dawsonensis) is reported to occur adjacent to a boggomoss type of artesian spring where the species appears to rely on the "perennially wet boggomosses that support comparatively dense vegetation with a complex litter layer" (Stanisic 2007).

The Elizabeth Springs Goby (Chlamydogobius micropterus) is restricted to larger discharge springs where the depth of water is greater than 5 mm, and the fish shelter near or among emergent vegetation during daylight (Fensham et al. 2007a). Some populations may be transient (Unmack & Wager 2007), with some springs being recolonised by dispersal between springs and spring-groups during flooding or heavy rainfall (Fensham et al. 2007a; Unmack & Wager 2007).

The Edgbaston Goby (Chlamydogobius squamigenus) is known to occur in small (surface area of a few square metres) to much larger (surface area to about one hectare) discharge springs that are shallow (water depth often less than 30 mm in smaller springs) and warm (Fensham et al. 2007b). The fish shelter near or among emergent vegetation during daylight (Fensham et al. 2007b). The species generally occupies the bottom of shallow, clear water bodies free from larger fishes. Fensham and colleagues (2007b) note the species may be able to disperse into other water bodies during rainfall or flooding.

The Red-finned Blue-eye (Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis) may be distributed in all areas of a discharge spring during spring, summer and autumn, and during the day in winter (Fensham and colleagues 2007c). They form large schools if disturbed. Juveniles congregate in shallow water (mostly about 5–10 mm deep; Fairfax et al. 2007) during warmer months but during cooler months are found close to the spring vents where the water is probably warmer than the air and of a more constant temperature (Fensham et al. 2007c). Adults occupy depths of 10–40 mm, but can occur in shallower water during summer (Fairfax et al. 2007). In 2006 the total wetland area of the Red-finned Blue-eye's habitat was estimated to be about 0.3 ha and the water depth generally < 20 mm (Fairfax et al. 2007).

The Salt Pipewort (Eriocaulon carsonii) is generally associated with vegetated spring mounds with alkaline soils, appears to prefer areas of shallow standing water with slow flow, and is generally found at the tail of springs or above the vent of slow flowing springs (see New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service 2002). The species appears to be highly opportunistic, with local colonization and extinction events occurring within spring complexes, sometimes on a regular basis (Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) 2005a; Fatchen & Fatchen 1993; New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service 2002; WMC (Olympic Dam Corporation) Pty Ltd 2004). Springs in South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland have been reported to be newly colonized by the species (see Fatchen & Fatchen 1993; Fensham 2007; New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service 2002; WMC (Olympic Dam Corporation) Pty Ltd 2004). Local extinctions of the species on spring wetlands may be caused by competition with other plants, often related to the removal of grazing by domestic stock or native herbivores (see 'Vegetation processes' under Description).

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

The ecological community 'The community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin' is characterised by the following features.

  • The native species that comprise the ecological community are assemblages of plant and animal taxa associated with and dependent on the springs and wetland areas located at points where the Great Artesian Basin groundwater is discharged naturally. The species include plants and animals that are endemic to one or more springs/wetlands and species that occur more widely in the Great Artesian Basin (Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2001) or beyond it. Not every species that is part of the listed ecological community will be present at every spring (Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2001).

  • The groundwater is artesian water that has its origin in the Great Artesian Basin aquifer (Fensham et al. 2007). The Great Artesian Basin is a hydrogeological basin that underlies an area of about 1.7 million square kilometres, primarily beneath arid and semi-arid regions of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory (Cox & Barron 1998).
  • The groundwater comes to the surface at points within Great Artesian Basin discharge areas which are the natural surface discharge points of aquifers in the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous sedimentary sequences of the Basin (Habermehl, 1982; Habermehl 1996 cited in Mudd 2000; see also Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2001). The discharge points and their associated wetland areas are variously called springs, artesian springs, mound springs, mud springs, boggomoss springs (springs with raised mounds of organic matter; see Noble et al. 1998), spring pools and groundwater seeps (Habermehl 1982; McLaren et al. 1986; papers in Pickard 1992; Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2001; Ziedler & Ponder 1989).

The Great Artesian Basin comprises several interconnected geological basins (Fensham et al. 2007), and the definition of its extent is generally based on the hydrogeological map of Habermehl and Lau (1997) (e.g. see Figure 4 in Great Artesian Basin Consultative Council 2000; Figure 1 in Fensham et al. 2007). Fensham and colleagues (2007) describe the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) as follows:

"The GAB is a confined groundwater system fed by rainwater entering the basin predominantly along its eastern margin, where the aquifer sediments outcrop as sandstone or are buried beneath freely draining material. Groundwater pressure gradients are generally towards the western and southern margins. Groundwater recharge rates and transmission times are relatively poorly understood but some waters in the GAB are in excess of a million years old (Habermehl 2001). The natural discharge points for the artesian water are springs that percolate to the surface through faults or from the exposed aquifer.

The major recharge areas for the GAB are around its northern and eastern margins (generally located on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range, in Queensland and New South Wales). The mean annual rainfall of the recharge areas is greater than 500 mm and up to 1800 mm in the far northern parts of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland. In the eastern margin of the GAB some outcropping sediments have an altitude of about 1000 m above sea level, while near the south-western margin groundwater discharges through springs at close to sea level". (p. 8)

Individual groundwater discharge points occur in clusters at a variety of scales (Fensham et al. 2007). These authors note that the terminology associated with the clustering of springs is not entirely consistent across state boundaries.

Fensham and Fairfax (2003) used the following scale-related definitions.

  • A spring-group represents multiple springs where no adjacent pair of springs is more than about 1 km distant and all springs are in a similar geomorphic setting. A spring-group may extend for several kilometers but adjacent springs are less than 1 km apart, or comprise a single spring where the nearest is more than 1 km away. Fensham and Fairfax (2003) comment that spring-groups are often given the place name "Springs". The 'sets of springs' described by Pickard (1992) in New South Wales are equivalent to spring-groups.
  • A spring-complex represents a group of springs or spring-groups such that no adjacent pair of springs or spring-groups is more than about 6 km apart, and all springs within the spring-complex are in a similar geomorphic setting. Fensham and colleagues (2007) note that in some situations the total area of a spring-complex may extend more than 6 km. Fensham and colleagues (2007: Appendix 3) also indicated that a spring-complex may contain both active and inactive springs, where they define an active spring as one which has "permanent free water visible at the surface, or where groundwater supports wetland vegetation or mud mounds". The spring-complex is roughly equivalent to 'spring groups' described in South Australia by McLaren and colleagues (1986) and some other workers in that state.
  • A Supergroup is defined as a major regional cluster of spring-complexes with some consistent hydrogeological characteristics and geographic proximity. Supergroups were originally recognized by Habermehl (1982) who called them 'spring groups'. The term Spring Group (in the sense of Habermehl 1982 and used by Great Artesian Basin Consultative Committee 2000; Habermehl & Lau 1997; Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2001) has been superseded by the term Supergroup which was first coined by Ponder (1986). Thirteen supergroups, covering both discharge and recharge springs, are now recognized (see Figure 1 in Fensham et al. 2007, reproduced in this profile under Distribution).

The listed ecological community comprises discharge springs in the twelve supergroups shown in the table under Similar Communities, viz Bogan River, Bourke, Barcaldine, Dalhousie, Eulo, Lake Eyre, Lake Frome, Flinders River, Mitchell/Staaten Rivers, Mulligan River, Springsure and Springvale. These twelve supergroups differ from those described by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2001) in that TSSC appeared to exclude only some springs from the Cape York Supergroup, all of which are are now considered to be recharge springs (see Similar Communities), and did not include the Mitchell/Staaten Rivers Supergroup because it was only identified as a separate supergroup in 2007 (see Fensham et al. 2007).

As far as possible, the terms spring-group, spring-complex and supergroup as defined above are used in this profile.


Climate

The distribution of Great Artesian Basin discharge springs spans tropical semi-arid climates and temperate arid climates (Fensham et al. 2007). Rainfall is erratic, with annual average rainfall ranging from 125–250 mm in South Australia and western Queensland, to 250–500 mm in most eastern parts of the Basin in Queensland (Ponder 1995). Flood events may occur however (Ponder 1995). Over most of the Basin, annual evaporation exceeds annual precipitation. For example, in the Dalhousie Supergroup area, mean annual rainfall is 130 mm and annual evaporation about 3 m (Symon 1984). Air temperatures may show extreme fluctuations, from from below 0 °C to over 40 °C (Ponder 1995).

Landscape setting

Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands mostly occur in topographically low points. In South Australia, these are usually valley floors and broad creek channels, but also include lake floors, clay pan depressions, flood plains, lowlands between remnant mesas in dissected plateau, and the base of hills (Boyd 1990a; Symon 1984; Thomson & Barnett 1985). In New South Wales discharge springs are associated with lacustrine plains, playa plains, lake beds, claypans and the toe-slope of hills (Benson et al. 2006; Pickard 1992). In Queensland, they are most commonly located on non-alluvial plains and floodplains, and infrequently in shallow (non-incised) gullies, dune swales, incised gullies, foot slopes and side slopes (Fensham & Fairfax 2003).

Spring morphology

Great Artesian Basin discharge springs are typically described as having a head containing one or more vents (i.e. the point of water discharge at the ground surface; Fensham & Fairfax 2003) from which water is issued and often forms a pool (Ponder 1986). One or more overflow channels carry flowing water from the head of the spring to the tail where a marshy wetland may form (Ponder 1986), and flows from individual spring vents can join to form a single wetland (Fensham & Fairfax 2003). Springs with a high rate of water discharge may support creeks that run for hundreds of metres or less commonly to several kilometres from the vent (Boyd 1990a; Habermehl 1982; Ponder 1995). The various features described in this paragraph are not present in every spring (Kinhill 1997).

Springs may lie at the ground level or be associated with mounds (New South Wales Scientific Committee 2001; Pickard 1992; Ponder 1986, 1995), where the mounds are formed by soil deposition around the vent/s and various chemical or other deposits. Because of the dynamic nature of springs, they range from dry or non-flowing mounds, to mounds with damp patches of soil or water seepages with/without distinct outlets, to mounds with pools at the top/water-filled craters, to non-mounded springs with open water and well defined outflows, to non-mounded damp seepages (Boyd 1990a; Fensham et al. 2007a; Habermehl 1982; Kinhill 1997; Ponder 1995; Unmack 1995). This range of spring types is evident, for example, in springs in the Springvale Supergroup (Fensham et al. 2007a), springs in the Dalhousie Supergroup (see Zeidler & Ponder 1989), springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup (see Greenslade et al. 1985) and springs in New South Wales (Pickard 1992). Subsoils may be permanently moist even though the soil surface may be dry (Fensham et al. 2004b).

The size of Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands is highly variable. The area ranges from < 1 m2 to over 100 ha (Fensham et al. 2007). Where ponds of water are present, the pond diameter may range from about 1 m (e.g. Pickard 1992) to 260 m (e.g. Bourke et al. 2007). The size of some spring wetlands can increase after rainfall when soils containing the spring pools are saturated, and up to a four-fold seasonal variation of the surface area is also known (e.g. Edgbaston Springs, Barcaldine Supergroup; Fairfax et al. 2007). The amount of surface water present is also affected by vegetation.

Mounds associated with springs may be 1–12 m high and 2–100 m or more in diameter. Mounds generally have shallow to steep slopes, but terraced mounds also occur (Habermehl 1998a, b). The morphology of mounds is related to a range of factors such as groundwater discharge variations and climate changes (Habermehl 1988b, 2002) and local effects including expansion, solution, collapse, subsidence and structural displacement, secondary solution, deposition and cementation, and the interaction of hydrochemistry, discharge, evaporation and carbonate precipitation (Habermehl 1998b, 2002).

Substrate

Soils associated with Great Artesian Basin discharge springs are most commonly clays and sands (Benson et al. 2006; Fairfax et al. 2007; Fensham & Fairfax 2003; Fensham et al. 2004b; Fensham et al. 2007b; Ponder 1986, 1995), although soils ranging from grey cracking clays to red earths to layered sandstone and banded carbonate have also been reported (Pickard 1992). Heavier textured soils may occur in the subsurface (e.g. Elizabeth Springs, Springvale Supergroup; Fensham et al. 2004b).

Travertine (i.e. calcareous deposits) is associated with some springs, e.g. larger springs at Edgebaston, Barcaldine Supergroup (Fairfax et al. 2007) and some springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup (Thomson & Barnett 1985). The development of large travertine mounds in western springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup is related to the high sulphate-low carbonate concentrations in the groundwater (Fensham et al. 2007).

Small areas of gibbers (small reddish brown stones) may extend into springs in some complexes (e.g. Edgbaston and Myross springs, Barcaldine Supergroup) (Fensham et al. 2007b).

Mounds associated with discharge springs are generally characterised by layers of clay, sand and silt, with carbonate cement and interlayers or caps of carbonate (Boyd 1990a; Habermehl 1982; Kinhill 1997; Ponder 1986). Sometimes the clay and silt layers are interbedded with sandy to pebbly limestone layers (Krieg 1989), while complex alternations of carbonate minerals ranging from calcite to dolomite also occur (Habermehl 1998a). Gypsum and iron oxides may be present in some mounds (Bourke et al. 2007), while others may occasionally have sulphur accretions on the surface (Thomson & Barnett 1985). Light grey gypsifferous and carbonaceous silt mixed with aeolian sand and layers of black organic silt near the surface have also been reported from mounds, often with a salt crust on the surface (Thomson & Barnett 1985).

Peat has been reported from springs in South Australia (Boyd 1990a), including springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup (Fatchen & Fatchen 1993; Symon 1985), and from the Flinders River Supergroup (Fairfax & Fensham 2002; Fensham & Fairfax 2003) and Springsure Supergroup (Fairfax & Fensham 2002) in Queensland. Some springs in the Barcaldine Supergroup have a high proportion of organic matter distributed over the bottom (Fensham et al. 2007b). Ponder (1986) noted that peat-like deposits are often associated with springs with a high pH.

Soils associated with some springs may contain alkaline seepage (Benson et al. 2006) or soda which forms thick white deposits on the spring margins (e.g. Edgbaston and Myross springs, Barcaldine Supergroup; Fensham et al. 2007b).

The soil surface around Great Artesian Basin discharge springs often contains deposits of salt that have precipitated from the evaporating discharge water (Fensham et al. 2007).

Spring water

Water outflow rates and depth

The water discharge from springs within any one complex varies from spring to spring. For example, springs in the Dalhousie Supergroup discharge 90% of total spring flow in South Australia through 40 separate springs, while the remaining 10% of total spring flow in the state arises from over 70 other springs in the Lake Eyre and Lake From supergroups (see Armstrong 1990).

Water outflow rates are generally low (< 0.1 litre/second to 7.5 litre/second) but may be much higher (e.g. 162–166 litre/second recorded at Dalhousie Springs) (Boyd 1990a; Kinhill 1997; McMahon et al. 2005; Mitchell 1985; Ponder 1995; Sheldon 1999). Wager and Unmack (2000) reported that only 11 springs have a discharge rate between 5–138 litre/second, all of which are located in the Dalhousie Supergroup. In 1992, many springs in New South Wales were moist but had no measurable water outflow (Pickard 1992).

The water discharge in more active springs is usually regular and gentle (Habermehl 1982; Sheldon 1999). However the water in some springs spasmodically bubbles to the surface, for example West Peery Springs, Bourke Supergroup (Pickard 1992) and springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup (Sheldon 1999) including the Bubbler (Habermehl 1982).

The water outflow rate is directly proportional to wetland area (see Mudd 2000) and varies with factors such as spring head level, differences in hydraulic conductivities, opening or closing of sub-surface fractures, atmospheric pressure variations during the day, sedimentation, seasonal evaporation rates and probably lunar cycles (Boyd 1990a; Fensham & Fairfax 2003; Kinhill 1997; Mudd 2000; Read 1997).

The depth of water in spring wetlands is often only 2–3 cm, but ranges from a few mm, especially in outflow channels and spring tails, to about 50 cm deep in pools around discharge vents (Fairfax et al. 2007; Fensham et al. 2007b, c; Ponder et al. 1989).

Spring water temperature

The temperature of water discharging from springs is generally between 20 °C (Boyd 1990a; Fatchen & Fatchen 1993; Fensham et al. 2007) to 30 °C (Fatchen & Fatchen 1993; Fensham et al. 2007) or 35 °C (Boyd 1990a). However it may be as low as 14 °C (Boyd 1990a; Mitchell 1985) and as high as 40–46 °C. For example at Dalhousie Springs the discharged water is generally 30–46 °C (Boyd 1990a; Smith 1989), and in active springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup the temperature ranges from 29–40 °C (Sheldon 1999). In the Flinders River Supergroup, two springs associated with a granite outcrop, both now extinct (Fensham et al. 2007), were described as having temperatures of about 50 °C (Palmer 1884).

The water temperature at vents within pools often remains relatively constant (Mitchell 1985; Ponder 1986, 1995). Away from the vents, the water temperature in smaller springs/shallower pools rapidly approaches that of air temperature (Ponder 1986, 1995). Mitchell (1985) noted that seepages tend to be warmer than pools.

In some springs, for example at the Edgbaston spring-group, Barcaldine Supergroup, water temperature may vary by more than 20 °C over a few hours (Unmack 1995; Wager & Unmack 2000). At this same spring-group, Fairfax and colleagues (2007) noted that the median and range of daytime water temperatures could vary considerably between individual springs. For example, over a 24-hour period, water in the tail of one spring had a temperature range of 3–30 °C while another had a range of only 20–33 °C. Fairfax and colleagues (2007) also noted seasonal water temperatures variations of 10–38.5 °C in springs at Edgbaston.

Spring water chemistry

Most water discharging from Great Artesian Basin springs is neutral to alkaline (pH 7–10) (Fairfax et al. 2007; Fatchen & Fatchen 1993; Fensham et al. 2004b; Kinhill 1997; Mitchell 1985; Ponder 1986, 1995) but may go as low as about pH 6 (Fensham & Fairfax 2003; Fensham et al. 2007; Pickard 1992; Sheldon 1999). Fensham and Fairfax (2003) noted that there can be considerable variation in pH between springs.

The conductivity of the water ranges from 500 µS/cm to 12 000 µS/cm (Kinhill Stearns 1984; Mitchell 1985; Pickard 1992; Smith 1989; other references in Fensham et al. 2007). Lower conductivity values may arise when springs depressions are filled with run-on water not sourced from the springs (e.g. see Pickard 1992).

Great Artesian basin discharge spring water is high in soluble salts, including sodium (Na), bicarbonate (HCO3), carbonate (CO3) and chloride (Cl) (Kinhill Stearns 1984; Kinhill 1997; Habermehl 1982). Phosphate (PO4), nitrate (NO3), sulphate (SO4), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg) and potassium (K) may also be present, often at low levels (Fairfax et al. 2007; Mitchell 1985).

Total dissolved salts generally range from around 650–700 mg/litre (Fensham & Fairfax 2003; Ponder 1995) to around 3400–4000 mg/litre (Fensham & Fairfax 2003; Ponder 1986, 1995), but may reach substantially higher values. For example, total dissolved salts reached 8000–10 000 mg/litre in springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup (Harris 1992; Ponder 1995), and Ponder (1986) reported a level of more than 32 000 mg/litre (location not specified).

Although Great Artesian Basin spring water is often saline (Sheldon 1999), salinity levels are also highly variable. Reported levels range from 675–6000 mg/litre in springs in the Dalhousie and Lake Eyre supergroups (Sheldon 1999) to hypersaline levels (> 35 000 mg/litre) for very low flow springs in the Lake Eyre Basin portion of the Great Artesian Basin (McMahon et al. 2005).

The type of dissolved salts in the groundwater of Great Artesian basin discharge springs reflects regional hydrochemistry (Habermehl 1998a). Groundwater in western springs of the Lake Eyre Supergroup tend to be high in sulphates and low in carbonates (Boyd 1990a; Habermehl 1982; Kinhill Stearns 1984), and is characterized as Na-Cl-SO4 type groundwater (Habermehl 1998a). Springs in the eastern part of the Lake Eyre Supergroup and the main parts of the Great Artesian Basin have low sulphate groundwaters with high carbonate concentrations (Boyd 1990a; Habermehl 1982; Kinhill Stearns 1984; Mitchell 1985) and are characterized as Na-HCO3-Cl type groundwater (Habermehl 1998a). Large travertine mounds are associated with the Na-Cl-SO4 type groundwater, but generally not with Na-HCO3-Cl type groundwater (Fensham et al. 2007).


Spring formation

Fensham and colleagues (2007) summarised the situations associated with the development of Great Artesian Basin discharge springs as places where:

  • water flows to the ground surface through faults or unconformities in the overlying sediments
  • water-bearing sediments approach the ground surface near the margins of the Basin
  • a conduit is provided at the contact between the confining sediments and the outcropping of bedrock (e.g. granites) (see also Armstrong 1990; Boyd 1990a; Habermehl 1982; McLaren et al. 1986; Ponder 1986, 1999).

The age of individual spring wetlands is poorly known (Fensham et al. 2007) although the onset of spring activity is thought to predate the Holocene (Boyd 1990a). Dating of spring deposits suggests that springs date from the recent (less than 100 years) to more than 700 000 years (Habermehl 2002; Habermehl & Prescott 2002). Water flow conditions in the Great Artesian Basin appear to have been largely unchanged for at least a million years (Habermehl 2001), and water issuing from springs has reportedly been dated at up to 2 million years old (see Cox & Barron 1998). Fensham and colleagues (2007) observe that at the scale of the spring-complex, the concentration of endemic organisms provides evidence that the environments of some spring wetlands probably date back to at least the mid-Tertiary (based on Perez et al. 2005).

Fensham and colleagues (2007) comment that the connectivity of groundwater sources to spring vents in the Great Artesian Basin is understood in general terms, but the details of the hydrology at individual spring locations is poorly understood. They note that in some cases, even the identity of the aquifer supplying groundwater to a spring is not known with certainty.

Springs are known to be dynamic in a geological time frame, and exhibit cyclic waxing, waning and extinction (Harris 1992). Habermehl (1998b) noted that the age of several basal spring deposits suggested that major climatic changes may have caused the activation or re-activation of some springs in the Great Artesian Basin.

Spring mound formation and dynamics

Fensham and colleagues (2007) summarise the processes by which mounds associated with Great Artesian Basin discharge springs develop. They include (see also Armstrong 1990; Boyd 1990a; Fensham & Fairfax 2003; Habermehl 1982; McLaren et al. 1986; Ponder 1986, 1995; Thomson & Barnett 1985):

  • the upward transport of sub-soil (mud, sand and gravel) by artesian water from aquifers
  • accretion of calcium carbonate, especially as cemented travertine
  • accumulation of aeolian (wind-blown) sand
  • transport and expansion of montmorillonite (a soft silicate-based mineral) surface clays
  • the development of peat from spring wetland vegetation
  • vegetation and material trapped by it.

Habermehl (1998a, b) noted that the carbonates are dominated by tufa, travertine and very fine-grained or crystalline limestone, and originate from the combined chemical precipitation of calcium carbonate out of the artesian groundwater. Ferruginous or siliceous deposits may also be present sometimes (Ponder 1986).

Calcium carbonate precipitated out of the groundwater by algae and bacteria (including cyanobacteria) also contributes to mound formation and often results in terraced mounds, and waterfall and cascade deposits (Habermehl 1998a, b; Ponder 1986).

Mound formation is closely related to water discharge rate, sediment load and the nature and concentration of salts in solution (Ponder 1986). However, why mounds form in some situations and not others, and what determines the development of the various types of mounds, is not fully understood (Fensham et al. 2007). Ponder (1986) noted that high rates of water flow result in little or no mound formation, while springs with low discharge rates and laminar flow experience high rates of evaporation and have a greater possibility of accumulating chemical precipitates. Ponder (1986) also noted that larger mounds with several vents may represent an accumulation of mounds.

Springs and their associated mounds are highly dynamic entities. For example, mounds may grow in size over time due to the mound-forming processes described above. The water outflow rate is affected by the type and abundance of vegetation, for example through impacts from evapotranspiration and the blocking of vents, especially by mat-forming vegetation such as Common Reed (Phragmites australis) or Baumea juncea (Fatchen & Fatchen 1993; Kinhill 1997; Read 1997). Vents may also become blocked by sediments and organic debris (Fatchen & Fatchen 1993; Harris 1989). Mounds initially formed from one vent may develop several vents on the sides if the initial spring head is blocked and replaced by seepages which start to flow from the side of the mound (Boyd 1990a). New vents may appear following scouring of mounds during floods (Fatchen & Fatchen 1993), while mounds may become buried under dust or sand during storms (Fairfax & Fensham 2002).

Mound building will cease when the height of the mound equals the hydrostatic head, forcing changes in flow structure (Ponder 1986). Springs may cease to flow when the artesian pressure falls, or the flow path becomes blocked, or an alternative, more direct flow path opens (Armstrong 1990). If a mound develops to a level at which the water flow is not sufficient to maintain an effective lip in the vent, the water in the mound will become static and the spring may eventually dry up and become "extinct" (Armstrong 1990).

Fensham and colleagues (2007) also note that new outflows often break out along points of weakness near the base of active spring mounds, while flows can form stream channels that erode mound structures. Changes in drainage result in the development of new wetland areas, and the dehydration of old ones (Fensham et al. 2007). Although many springs are very long-lasting (Fensham et al. 2007), activation and deactivation of separate vents within some spring-complexes has also been recorded within short time periods (Fatchen 2000a, Fensham & Fairfax 2003; Fensham et al. 2004b). At Elizabeth Springs, Springvale Supergroup, research by Fensham and colleagues (2004b) indicated that 62% of wetland quadrats had been dryland at some time since 1951, and 6% of dryland quadrats had been wetland at some time since 1951, indicating considerable spring dynamism. Fensham and colleagues (2004b) noted that such dynamism could result from natural factors such as changes in sediment deposition and hydrostatic pressure of water.

Vegetation processes

Spring wetlands may form vegetated swamps or vegetation may be absent if there is no water seepage (Fensham et al. 2007). The vegetated area can vary with spring flow, water salinity level, stock grazing and trampling, sediment deposition or removal (by flood or wind), minor diversion of spring tails, surface and near-surface water subsidies in a wet period, and the establishment of root or rhizome caps on small vents (Fatchen & Fatchen 1993; Fatchen 2001a; McLaren et al. 1986).

Vegetation patterns, including micro-patterning, vegetation height and species present, may be related partly to variations in substrate, water chemistry, water depth and water flow rate (Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) 2005b; Fensham & Fairfax 2003; Fensham et al. 2007, 2007b, c). Water chemistry can determine whether some species are present or not. For example in the Lake Eyre Supergoup, Salt Pipewort (Eriocaulon carsonii) occurs only on eastern springs where the waters are low in sulphate and high in carbonate (Fensham et al. 2007).

Springs are highly dynamic biological systems on a time-scale in the order of years to decades (Fatchen 2001b; Kinhill 1997; Lange & Fatchen 1990). Floristic composition and diversity vary with the physical location of springs, the number of springs in a spring-group or spring-complex, water salinity, the presence/absence of grazing by domestic stock, flooding following major rainfall events, and short-term and long-term changes in spring water flow (Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) 2005b; Fatchen & Fatchen 1993; Kinhill Stearns 1984; Lange & Fatchen 1990; McLaren et al. 1986).

Fatchen and Fatchen (1993); Kinhill Stearns (1984), Lange and Fatchen (1990) and Symon (1985) considered that colonisation and extinction processes were largely responsible for the species composition of springs rather than any orderly sequence of species. McLaren and colleagues (1986) noted that with the right conditions, the vegetation of springs can regenerate rapidly although "often not with their original complement of species". At springs in the West Finniss and Hermit Springs spring-groups, Lake Eyre Supergroup, Baumea juncea, Cyperus laevigatus, Eriocaulon carsonii, Fimbristylis spp., Gahnia trifida and Phragmites australis all exhibited local extinctions and local colonizations between 1983 and 1992, with some invasions subsequently also becoming locally extinct (see Fatchen & Fatchen 1993).

Within some individual springs, vegetation pattern and composition can be clearly related to the age of the wetland, with species diversity increasing with wetland age. For example at Elizabeth Springs, Springvale Supergroup, newly formed wetland areas were dominated by monospecific stands of Cyperus laevigatus, 30-year old wetland areas by C. laevigatus, Fimbristylis sp. and Eriocaulon carsonii, and 40-year old wetland areas by the latter three species plus Eragrostis sp., Myriophyllum artesium, Pennisetum alopecuroides and Phragmites australis (Fensham et al. 2004b).

The above apparent successional pattern does not apply to all springs, for example where elimination of heavy grazing allows highly palatable, robust, often tall (e.g. to 4 m), rhizomatous species like Common Reed (Phragmites australis) and Bulrush (Typha) to take over the vegetation and crowd out highly palatable and/or smaller plants, thus reducing overall floristic diversity (Fensham & Fairfax 2003; Fensham et al. 2007; Kinhill Stearns 1984; Kinhill 1997; McLaren et al. 1986).

For example, over a 17 year period after destocking at Hermit Springs, Lake Eyre Supergroup in South Australia, Fatchen (2001b) found that Phragmites australis, which was a minor constituent of the vegetation under domestic stocking, came to dominate most springs, while Baumea juncea expanded to dominate a minority of springs. Cyperus laevigatus, which was originally dominant on a majority of springs under stock grazing was reduced to a minor (although abundant) component of the vegetation. Fimbristylis sp., which was rare under grazing, became temporarily common or even dominant for the first few years after grazing ceased, but was then squeezed out by Phragmites. Salt Pipewort (Eriocaulon carsonii) was displaced by the more robust species from its preferred habitat on vent centres to peripheral and marginal habitats, or competitively excluded. Kinhill (1997) also noted that after the removal of stock from Finniss Springs, Lake Eyre Supergroup, competition with species such as Phragmites australis resulted in a 50% reduction in E. carsonii populations and numerous local extinctions. The dynamic nature of these interactions was again highlighted at one spring at Hermit Springs, after a natural fire reduced the Phragmites biomass. After the fire, Fimbristylis sp. and E. carsonii re-appeared in the vegetation and Cyperus laevigatus expanded (Fatchen 2001b).

In New South Wales, grazing of sedges on spring mounds by stock or native herbivores was also reported to reduce competition between sedges and E. carsonii (Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) 2005a; New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service 2002).

Fauna processes

Permanent water is essential throughout the life span for some vertebrate and many invertebrate species associated with Great Artesian Basin spring wetlands, and for the larval stages of other invertebrate species (see Kinhill 1997).

Species of hydrobiid snails are unable to withstand dessication for more than a few minutes and are reliant on the continuous availability of suitable aquatic habitat (Ponder & Colgan 2002). Factors that determine suitability include water chemistry, water flow and the structure of the non-aquatic environment such as riparian vegetation. Reductions in water flow are thought to adversely impact invertebrates directly through increased water salinity and desiccation, and indirectly through changed availability of dietary items, changes in vegetation and changes in substrate particle size (Graham 1998).

The amount of free surface water available for aquatic fauna may be affected by spring vegetation. For example, the vents of springs may become plugged with mat-forming vegetation such as Phragmites australis (Common Reed) (Kinhill 1997). Where Phragmites australis or Bulrush (Typha) thickets, or Eriocaulon carsonii (Salt Pipewort) mats are present in wetlands, loss of water through evapotranspiration from the plants may be also sufficient to significantly reduce or even eliminate groundwater flow to the surface and hence free water (Fensham et al. 2004b, 2007; Kinhill Stearns 1984). Fensham and colleagues (2007) note that springs feeding directly into small standing pools rarely contain endemic fauna.

Although Ponder and colleagues (1989, cited in Fensham and colleagues 2007) noted that the water chemistry in some springs excludes endemic fauna, east-west differences in water chemistry (high sulphate in western springs; high carbonate in eastern springs: see Spring water chemistry, above) do not appear greatly to influence the distribution of the endemic aquatic invertebrates (Fensham et al. 2007).

The habitats of spring dependent species include water within and at the surface of spring pools or tails, and damp areas at the water's edge (Kinhill 1997). Many endemic invertebrate species are dependent on well-oxygenated flowing water which is often only one to a few millimeters deep, and where shelter (for example from fallen trees, rocks and sedges) is also important (Fensham et al. 2007). Such habitats are extremely vulnerable to changes in water flow or trampling (Graham 1998).

The habitats of spring dependent species vary within and between different groups of organisms For example, Kinhill (1997) summarised invertebrate habitats in springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup as follows:

  • Ostracods and the isopod Phreatomerus latipes are generally associated with springs with a continuous flow of water into a well-formed tail and a dense cover of vegetation, and with little or no damage from stock or pest animals.
  • Amphipods are generally found in springs with continuously flowing water and a well-formed tail; do not appear to be limited by stock and pest animal damage.
  • Adult isopods appear to prefer shallow and slow flowing water towards the end and margins of spring tails.
  • Juvenile isopods appear to prefer faster flowing water nearer spring vents.

Fish species also require permanent water for survival. Fish in springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup generally need large areas of flowing water (spring pool plus a spring tail) where the flow is strong or visible (see Kinhill 1997). The number of fish species present in any given spring in the Lake Eyre Supergroup is determined by the size (surface area) of the spring pool, and each fish species requires a minimum pool size for it to be present (Kodric-Brown & Brown 1993). The threshold pool size is small for small fish species and larger for the larger species, indicating the species differ in the amount and kind of aquatic habitat they require to maintain a viable population and thus show trophic specialisation (Kodric-Brown & Brown 1993). Smaller fish often rely on vegetation in spring wetlands for shelter, and their use of the water body varies seasonally and with the life stage of the species (see fish species discussed under Legal Status).

Endemic mound springs fauna are thought to respond to a range of environmental stimuli and conditions, including the plugging of vents by vegetation, seasonal change, drought, flood, stock and pest animal damage, and aquifer drawdown (Kinhill 1997).

Monitoring of invertebrate species in springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup has shown that they experience large fluctuations in abundance between years, and may either appear in previously unoccupied habitats or disappear from previously occupied habitats where they may subsequently recover (WMC (Olympic Dam Corporation) Pty Ltd 2003a, 2004). Some population fluctations may be caused by major events such as floods. For example, Kinhill Stearns (1984) and Ponder (1986) reported that a severe reduction in the number of snails was observed in a spring at Hermit Hill, Lake Eyre Supergoup, following its complete submergence during a flood; the population took more than a year to recover. During a flood at Blanche Cup Spring in the same supergroup, invertebrates at the base of the mound were washed away but their numbers in the (non-flooded) outflow remained essentially unchanged (Kinhill Stearns 1984; Ponder 1986). Fensham and colleagues (2007) noted that floods may also adversely impact hydrobiid invertebrates by affecting oxygen levels in the water.

Relatively small populations of species within spring wetlands are considered especially vulnerable to extirpation (i.e. local extinction) (Fatchen 2000; Ponder 1986, 1994; Ponder & Clark 1990). It is thought that extirpation of invertebrates (including endemic species) may be caused by natural termination of spring flow, human interference (such as damming or digging springs out), flooding, the introduction of competitors or predators (Ponder 1986) or alteration of spring vent habitat through the proliferation of robust plants such as Phragmites australis (Fatchen 2000a). Changed disturbance regimes can also cause extirpation of fish species (Kodric-Brown et al. 2007).

Colonisation of springs may also occur, especially where springs are located in clusters (Fensham et al. 2007). Mechanisms facilitating colonisation include aerial dispersal (birds or wind), flooding or when spring tails join (Fairfax et al. 2007; Kinhill Stearns 1984; Kodric-Brown & Brown 1993; Ponder 1986; Worthington Wilmer & Wilcox 2007).

Extirpations and colonisations have been reported for fish populations in springs in the Barcaldine and Dalhousie supergroups. At Edgbaston Springs, Barcaldine Supergroup, the endemic Red-finned Blue-eye (Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis) was reported to have died out from five springs from which they were previously known and subsequent colonisations to have occurred in two spring wetlands (Fairfax et al. 2007). Of three natural colonisations that occurred in one spring, at least one was after a rainfall event; two populations survived for less than four months while one had persisted for at least 17 months.

Over a 12 year period at 30 isolated springs in the Dalhousie Supergroup, Kodric-Brown and colleagues (2007) recorded 18 population extirpations and two colonisations among five native fish species (four of them endemic). As a result, the overall species richness of fish decreased in many springs. The endemic Dalhousie Goby (Chlamydogobius gloveri) accounted for 12 of the 18 extirpations. Extirpations were related to spring size, with smaller springs more readily losing populations than larger springs, and to major changes in habitat especially large increases in the abundance/area of Phragmites australis (Common Reed) and associated decreases in the area/volume of open water and dissolved oxygen and increases in evapotranspiration. The changed abundance of Phragmites australis was associated with reduced disturbance and herbivory following the removal of feral animals (camels and donkeys). Previously these animals had removed large quantities of riparian vegetation and created substantial open-water habitat within larger springs and along spring outflows. Lack of vegetation and disturbance also maintained water in smaller springs, and sometimes maintained longer outflow streams which in some instances were connected, thus giving fish better access to springs.

There appears to be no "natural succession" of fish species related to hydrological cycles in springs (Kodric-Brown et al. 2007). Colonisation of fish species in, and extirpation of fish species from, any given spring may be predictable and related to the minimum spring size required by each species (Kodric-Brown & Brown 1993).


Regional differentiation

Some consistent regional differences are apparent between Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands. For example, Fensham and colleagues (2004a) note that springs in South Australia and New South Wales appear to be floristically similar, but distinct from those in Queensland. Species in common include Cyperus laevigatus, Phragmites australis and Eriocaulon carsonii. Species present in springs in South Australia but not Queensland include Baumea juncea, Cotula coronopifolia, Gahnia trifida, Juncus kraussii and Samolus repens. Baumea juncea is also known from one spring in New South Wales. Species apparently restricted to Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands in Queensland include Eragrostis fenshamii (previously known as Eragrostis sp. (RJ Fensham 2705)), Myriophyllum artesium, Pennisetum alopecuroides, Schoenus falcatus and Sporobolus pamelae (Fensham et al. 2004a).

The characteristics of Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia are summarised below. It should be noted that the level of information available varies considerably between states, between spring supergroups and spring-complexes, and between groups of organisms.

11.1 Queensland

Queensland-spring morphology

The size of discharge spring wetlands in Queensland ranges from 100 cm2 to 3 ha, with most spring wetlands < 0.05 ha in area (Fensham & Fairfax 2003). Springs may or may not be associated with mounds. For example, most springs at Edgbaston, Barcaldine Supergroup, and many at Elizabeth Springs, Springvale Supergroup, are small, shallow, and marshy, and lack mounds (Unmack 1995; Fensham et al. 2007a)). In the Springvale Supergroup, mounds may be present and 2–3 m high and several metres in diameter (Habermehl 1982), while mounds in the Eulo Supergroup may be to 7 m high (Habermehl 1982).

Queensland-spring vegetation

Vegetation varies within springs in relation to moisture, as well within and between spring-complexes and supergroups. Not every species is present at every spring. The main types of vegetation associated with springs are:

  • a sparse to mid-dense ground layer dominated by the tussock grass Sporobolus pamelae (Spring Grass), with the grass Ischaemum australe and mat-forming herb Eriocaulon carsonii (Salt Pipewort) commonly also present (Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2008e). Spring Grass usually grows in deeper parts of the springs, while the sedges Fimbristylis dichotoma and Cyperus laevigatus may also be common in shallower areas (Fairfax et al. 2007; Fensham et al. 2007b, c). Example: Edgbaston and Myross springs, Barcaldine Supergroup (Fairfax et al. 2007; Fensham et al. 2007b, c)
  • ground layer dominated by the sedge Cyperus laevigatus and Fimbristylis spp. and the grasses Pennisetum alopecuroides and Eragrostis fenshamii and sometimes also Phragmites australis (Bulrush, Cumbungi). Example: Elizabeth Springs, Springvale Supergroup (Fensham et al. 2004b; Fensham et al. 2007a)
  • ground layer dominated by the sedges Baumea rubiginosa and Cyperus spp, with Melaleuca leucadendra (a Paperbark) trees 12–18 m tall forming a sparse tree canopy and species of Pandanus sometimes also present (Fensham et al. 2007; Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2008e). Examples: springs in Flinders Supergroup (Fensham et al. 2007)
  • mats of the herbs Myriophyllum artesium and Eriocaulon carsonii (Salt Pipewort), sometimes with the sedge Cyperus laevigatus or other herbs such as Utricularia caerulea, U. dichotoma and Plantago gaudichaudii present. Examples: Edgbaston and Myross springs, Barcaldine Supergroup (Fairfax et al. 2007; Fensham et al. 2007b, c); Elizabeth Springs, Springvale Supergoup (Fensham et al. 2004b; Fensham et al. 2007a)
  • ground layer dominated by the grasses Cynodon dactylon (non-native) and Echinochloa colona and the sedges Cyperus difformis, C. polystachyos and Fimbristylis dichotoma; this community is typical of springs that have been excavated at some stage (Fensham & Fairfax 2003).

Queensland-spring fauna

Four species of native fish are present in Great Artesian Basin discharge springs in Queensland and a fifth has been recorded in the past (see 'Vertebrate fauna-other'). The Edgbaston spring-complex, Barcaldine Supergroup, supports three native species (Unmack 2002) of which two are endemic (Fensham et al. 2007). The Elizabeth Springs spring-complex, Springvale Supergroup, supports one species, which is endemic (Fensham et al. 2007; Unmack 2002).

The Barcaldine Supergroup supports 19 known endemic invertebrate species while the Eulo and Springvale supergroups each support 12 and two known endemic invertebrate species (respectively) (determined from Fensham et al. 2007, Appendix 2).

11.2 New South Wales

New South Wales-spring morphology

Each individual Great Artesian Basin discharge spring in New South Wales varies in shape, water flow and local topography (New South Wales Scientific Committee 2001). Spring mounds have been described as 1–10 m high and 2–100+ m in diameter (Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) 2005a). However mounds associated with active springs may be relatively small, for example to 2 m high and 15 m in diameter, and with pools of water to 1 m in diameter (Pickard 1992).

New South Wales-spring vegetation

The floristic composition of the vegetation varies between springs (Benson et al. 2006; Pickard 1992) and is affected by the size of the site, its disturbance history and whether or not water discharge is still present (New South Wales Scientific Committee 2001).

Vegetation associated with unmodified springs in which there is active discharge of water at Lake Peery, Bourke Supergroup, is dominated by the sedges Cyperus gymnocaulos and Cyperus laevigatus (Pickard 1992; Westbrooke et al. 2003). Pickard (1992) also recorded the presence of species including Eriocaulon carsonii (Salt Pipewort), Heliotropium curassavicaum, Schoenoplectus pungens, Sclerostegia sp. and Utricularia sp. at these springs. Benson and colleagues (2006) noted that Phragmites australis (Common Reed) may dominate some springs.

At other springs where moist soil provides the only indication of spring discharge, other sedges, grasses and a range of herbaceous species, e.g. in the families Asteraceae, Chenopodiaceae, Fabaceae and Portulacaceae, may be present (see Benson et al. 2006; Pickard 1992). Although the plants are generally associated with water, they are usually more typical of old watering points, reflecting the use of the springs as watering points for domestic stock and feral animals for nearly 150 years (New South Wales Scientific Committee 2001; Pickard 1992) or of local river systems (Pickard 1992).

Trees such as Eucalyptus largiflorens (Black Box), E. populnea (Bimble Box, Poplar Box) and E. camaldulensis (River Red Gum) and shrubs such as Acacia victoriae (Elegant Wattle, Prickly Wattle, Gundabluie), Eremophila spp and Myoporum montanum have been reported to be part of the spring vegetation (e.g. Benson et al. 2006; New South Wales Scientific Committee 2001; Pickard 1992). However these species are not considered to be spring-dependent species (Pickard 1992).

New South Wales-spring fauna

No information was located on spring fauna associated with discharge springs in New South Wales.

11.3 South Australia

South Australia-spring morphology

The size of springs and their associated mounds in South Australia varies between spring supergroups, with those at Dalhousie the largest in the state (and in the Great Artesian Basin; Fensham et al. 2007).

The spring mounds in the Dalhousie Supergroup range in height from several metres to 10–12 m, and their diameter from a few metres to around 100 m (Habermehl 1982; Symon 1984) and rarely to 180 m (Bourke et al. 2007). They are described as low, broad rises with shallow rounded profiles (Krieg 1989; Symon 1984) and are generally symmetrical but may bulge on mound flanks where seepage occurs (Bourke et al. 2007). Discharge spring pools at Dalhousie may be 30–260 m wide and up to 10 m deep, and not all pools are associated with mounds (Bourke et al. 2007). Bourke and colleagues (2007) also noted that channels arising from springs are often narrow, sinuous and leveed systems, with channels sometimes merging downstream of the vents to form wide, shallow, anastomosing channels separated by carbonate rich islands.

Discharge spring mounds in the Lake Eyre Supergroup have been described as circular to oval in plan and low in profile (Boyd 1990a), and their dimensions vary with the extent of active water discharge. Thomson and Barnett (1985) reported that the mounds of active springs, i.e. those with flowing water, were slightly asymmetrical, had sides with slopes of 2–35°, and were generally 5–12 m in diameter and 1–4 m high. The vents in active mounds formed circular to oval pools in which the water ranged from still to spasmodically bubbling (Thomson & Barnett 1985). The largest mound (Blanche Cup) was 25.5 m in diameter and had a pool diameter of 15.2 m (Thomson & Barnett 1985). Waning mound springs, i.e. springs with a closed vent but still some water seepage, had slopes of 10–25° and were generally 15–18 m wide and 3–4 m high (Thomson & Barnett 1985). Boyd (1990a) reported one discharge spring at Fred Spring to be 130 m long, 30 m wide and 8 m high.

Spring mounds in the Lake Frome Supergroup are reported to be up to 2 m high, 15 m long and 5 m in diameter (Habermehl 1982).

South Australia-spring vegetation

The vegetation associated with springs in South Australia varies between springs and both spatially and temporally (see Vegetation processes) within individual springs. Not every species is present at every spring. Vegetation associated with springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup are described by Symon (1985), Kinhill Stearns (1984), Kinhill (1997) and Read (1997), and that associated with the Dalhousie Supergroup springs by Symon (1984), Harris (1989) and Mollemans (1989). McLaren and colleagues (1986) and Lange and Fatchen (1990) summarise vegetation associated with discharge springs in South Australia.

The total plant species diversity of springs in South Australia is often very low and appears to be independent of wetland area, but is correlated with the number of individual vents in a spring-complex (Kinhill Stearns 1984; Fatchen & Fatchen 1993). Most plant species in the spring vegetation also occur on water courses, floodplains and saline soils in the wider region in which the springs occur, and only a very small proportion is reliant solely on spring discharge (Lange & Fatchen 1990). Such species include Baumea juncea (Bare Twig-rush), B. arthrophylla, Cyperus gymnocaulos (Spiny Flat-sedge), C. laevigatus (Bore-drain Sedge), Eleocharis geniculata, Eriocaulon carsonii (Salt Pipewort), Fimbristylis dichotoma, F. ferruginea, Gahnia trifida (Cutting Grass), Halosarcia fontinalis, Juncus krausii, Hydrocotyle verticillata and Phragmites australis (Common Reed) (Kinhill Stearns 1984; McLaren et al. 1986).

Many of the species dominant in discharge spring vegetation are robust rhizomatous perennials, e.g. Cyperus gymnocaulos, C. laevigatus, Phragmites australis, Sporobolus virginicus and Typha domingensis (Symon 1985). The species vary in their habitat requirements, for example Cyperus gymnocaulos tolerates drier condition than C. laevigatus while Typha domingensis is generally associated with free water (Mollemans 1989; Symon 1985).

The vegetation associated with active Great Artesian Basin discharge spring vents in South Australia (based on Department of Environment and Heritage (SA) 2005, and supplemented by references in above paragraph) includes the following:

  • grassland or tall grassland dominated by Phragmites australis (Common Reed)
  • sedgeland/reedland/tall reedland dominated by one or more of Typha domingensis (Bulrush), Cyperus laevigatus (Bore-drain Sedge) and Eleocharis pallens (Pale Spike-rush)
  • mixed sedgeland or low sedgeland dominated by Cyperus gymnocaulos (Spiny Flat-sedge) or by Cyperus laevigatus (Bore-drain Sedge), Eleocharis pallens (Pale Spike-rush) and Eriocaulon carsonii (Salt Pipewort)
  • sedgeland dominated by Gahnia trifida (Cutting Grass) with or without Baumea juncea (Bare Twig-rush) with a lower stratum of Cyperus laevigatus (Bore-drain Sedge)
  • Dalhousie Supergroup only: open-forest, woodland and open woodland dominated by Melaleuca glomerata (White Tea-tree) trees 10–12 m tall with or without Myoporum acuminatum (Native Myrtle) shrubs. Melaleuca glomerata trees are often multi-stemmed and have trunks to 30 cm in diameter.

The vegetation associated with spring tails (based on Department of Environment and Heritage (SA) 2005, and supplemented by references in first paragraph above) includes the following:

  • mixed sedgeland dominated by Cyperus laevigatus (Bore-drain Sedge) with Gahnia trifida (Cutting Grass), Baumea juncea (Bare Twig-rush), Eleocharis pallens (Pale Spike-rush) and Halosarcia spp. (samphires) present occasionally
  • grassland/tall grassland dominated by Phragmites australis (Common Reed)
  • sedgeland/tall sedgeland dominated by Typha domingensis (Bulrush).

Low grassland dominated by Sporobolus virginicus (Salt Couch) may be present on mound fringes and on waning springs (Kinhill Stearns 1984; Lange & Fatchen 1990), while woody vegetation is often associated with dry habitats in the vicinity of spring vents. For example Acacia salicina (Cooba) shrubs may be present on the outer fringes of mounds (Symon 1984) and Pittosporum angustifolium (previously called P. phylliraeoides var. microcarpa) present occasionally on senescing springs (Mollemans 1989). The vegetation associated with inactive vents (Department of Environment and Heritage (SA) 2005) is generally tall shrubland dominated by Acacia spp. and Myoporum acuminatum (Native Myrtle) with or without Nitraria billardierei (Nitre Bush) shrubs and Hemichroa mesembryanthemum (Pigface).

South Australia-spring fauna

Eight species of native fish are known from Great Artesian Basin discharge springs in South Australia (see 'Vertebrate fauna-other'). The Dalhousie Supergroup contains seven species (Fensham et al. 2007; Unmack 2003b) of which five are endemic (Fensham et al. 2007; Unmack 2002). Forty-three springs in the Dalhousie Supergroup contain native fish (Kodric-Brown & Brown 1993). Springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup have three native species (Fensham et al. 2007; Unmack 2003b), none of which is endemic and one of which is present ephemerally (Unmack 2002).

Thirty-eight spider species have been reported from spring wetland habitats in South Australia, some of which appeared to be confined to mound springs (Kinhill 1997). In the Lake Eyre Supergroup, species from up to seven spider families were recorded on springs that had not been grazed by cattle for about a decade, and included vagrant hunters, web builders and ambush hunters (Kovac & Mackay 2007). Other families abundant on more than one spring included Oxyopidae, Salticidae and Pisauridae (Kovac & Mackay 2007).

Wolf spiders (Lycosidae) are the most abundant family of spiders on springs in South Australia (Framenau et al. 2006; Kovac & Mackay 2007) and are the springs' dominant invertebrate predators (Framenau et al. 2006). Nine species of wolf spider are common in springs in South Australia (Framenau et al. 2006), with Lycosa arenaris the most abundant wolf spider on springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup (Gotch 2001).

The Barcaldine and Lake Eyre supergroups support the highest number of known endemic invertebrate species (19 and 18 species respectively) (determined from Fensham et al. 2007, Appendix 2). The Eulo Supergroup supports 12 known endemic invertebrate species, the Dalhousie Supergroup seven known endemic species, and the Lake Frome and Springvale supergroups four and two known endemic invertebrate species (respectively) (Fensham et al. 2007, Appendix 2).

The Lake Eyre Supergroup supports 18 known endemic invertebrates species, while the Dalhousie and Lake Frome supergroups each support seven and four known endemic invertebrates species (respectively) (determined from Fensham et al. 2007, Appendix 2).


Studies carried out on species or groups of organisms in particular discharge spring-complexes are outlined in other sections of this profile. Major studies relating to spring supergroups are listed in Survey and Monitoring.

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

The biota of Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands includes aquatic and semi-aquatic plant and animal species. They include endemics, which range from species restricted to particular spring-groups to species that occur in spring-groups and spring-complexes in a number of supergroups, as well as widespread species whose range extends across and often beyond the Great Artesian Basin. Aquatic plant and animal species in spring wetlands must be able to withstand widely fluctuating temperatures (Fensham et al. 2007; Ponder 1986) and tolerate the chemical composition of the water (see Description). Populations of aquatic species often exhibit considerable dynamism (see 'Vegetation processes' and 'Faunal processes' under Description).

Vascular flora

Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands are know to support at least 13 endemic plant species, including Eragrostis fenshamii, Eriocaulon carsonii, Eryngium fontanum, Fimbristylis blakei, Hydrocotyle dipleura, Myriophyllum artesium and Sporobolus pamelae (Fensham et al. 2007). Notes on the occurrence of the endemic species within spring-complexes and supergroups are provided in Appendix 2 and Appendix 4 of Fensham and colleagues (2007).

Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands also support isolated populations of non-endemic plant species that would not otherwise occur in arid areas. Such species include Fimbristylis ferruginea, Isotoma fluviatilis, Pennisetum alopecurioides, Plantago gaudichaudii, Schoenus falcatus and Utricularia caerulea in Queensland (Fensham et al. 2004a) and Gahnia trifida (Cutting Grass), Baumea juncea (Bare Twig-rush) and Juncus kraussii in South Australia (Fatchen & Fatchen 1993; Fensham et al. 2007; Kinhill Stearns 1984).

Other species associated with Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands are widespread and relatively common in river systems (e.g. see Fatchen & Fatchen 1993; McLaren et al. 1986; Pickard 1992) and may extend beyond the Basin. For example, Common Reed (Phragmites australis) is dominant in many wetland habitats in south-eastern Australia as well as on many discharge spring wetlands in the Great Artesian Basin (see Roberts 2000). Other widespread species include Typha domingensis (Bulrush), Cyperus laevigatus (Bore-drain Sedge), C. gymnocaulos (Spiny Flat-sedge) and Juncus kraussii (Sea Rush) (McLaren et al. 1986).

On springs in New South Wales, Pickard (1992) commented that although many species present were usually associated with water, they were more typical of species present at old watering points. Fensham and colleagues (2007) noted that on heavily disturbed springs native and widely occurring non-native wetland species may become abundant. Native species in such situations include Cyperus difformis, C. polystachyos and Typha orientalis, while non-native species include Cynodon dactylon (Couch Grass), Echinochloa colona and Paspalum distichum (Fensham et al. 2007).

Although many plant species have been recorded from Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands and their surrounds, only a small number of species are totally dependent on the groundwater discharge, i.e. are obligate wetland species. For example, in South Australia around 80 native vascular plant species have been recorded as being associated with springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup (Fatchen & Fatchen 1993; Kinhill 1997, Appendix K) and 74 vascular species recorded in or associated with springs in the Dalhousie Supergroup (Mollemans 1989). However about 12–27 native plant species associated with the Dalhousie Supergroup (Mollemans 1989; Symon 1984) and about 10–17 species associated with springs in the southern part of the Lake Eyre Supergroup (Fatchen & Fatchen 1993; Kinhill Stearns 1984; Symon 1985) were dependent on moisture from the springs. Fatchen and Fatchen (1993) considered that only 8–10 plant species were "core flora of springs" in the Hermit Hill springs, Lake Eyre Supergroup. In Queensland, about 10 species were considered to be obligate wetland species on springs in the Springvale Supergroup although four species had an average cover of < 1% (Fensham et al. 2004b), and five common species in the Barcaldine Supergroup were obligate wetland species (Fensham et al. 2007b, c).

Vegetation

The floristic composition and structure of vegetation associated with Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands is highly variable (Fensham et al. 2007) and affected by a wide range of factors (see 'Vegetation processes' under Description).

The structure of discharge spring wetlands vegetation in the Basin has been described as:

  • very sparse (e.g. Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2008a–f; Pickard 1992; Symon 1985)
  • sedgeland, low sedgeland, mixed sedgeland, forbland, grassland, low grassland, reedland and tall closed reedland (e.g. Benson et al. 2006; Department of Environment and Heritage (SA) 2005; Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2008e; Mollemans 1989; Westbrooke et al. 2003). Dominant species are frequently rhizomatous sedges, tussock sedges and tussock grasses (Fensham et al. 2007, 2007a, b, c). The vegetation is usually less than 5 m tall (Fensham et al. 2007)
  • vegetated mats less than 50 cm tall which include grasses, sedges, graminoids and herbs such as Eriocaulon carsonii (Salt Pipewort) and Myriophyllum artesium (Fensham et al. 2004b, 2007a; Fairfax et al. 2007).

Plant species commonly present in these vegetation types are listed in the table below. Not every species occurs on every spring (e.g. see Benson et al. 2006; Fatchen & Fatchen 1993; Kinhill Stearns 1984; Mollemans 1989; Symon 1985).


Scientific nameCommon nameQld NSWSA
Baumea juncea#Bare Twig-rush  +1, 6, 9, 12
Baumea arthrophylla   +6
Boerhavia coccinea  +11 
Cynodon dactylon (non-native)Couch Grass +11 
Cyperus difformis +7  
Cyperus gymnocaulos#Spiny Flat-sedge+7+2,11+1, 9, 10
Cyperus laevigatus#*^Bore-drain Sedge+3, 4, 5, 7+2, 11+1, 8, 9, 10
Dactyloctenium radulansButton Grass +11 
Eleocharis geniculata   +6
Eleocharis pallensPale Spike-rush  +9
Eleocharis pusilla  +11 
Eragrostis dielsiiMulka +11 
Eragrostis sp.* +3  
Eriocaulon carsonii#*^Salt Pipewort+3, 4, 5, 7 +1, 6, 8, 9, 12
Fimbristylis dichotoma#^Common Fringe-rush+4, 7 +1, 8, 12
Fimbristylis ferruginea   +6
Fimbristylis sp.* +3  
Gahnia trifidia#Cutting Grass  +1, 6, 8, 9, 12
Glinus lotoides  +11 
Halosarcia fontinalis   +6
Halosarcia sppSamphires  +9
Hydrocotyle verticillata   +6
Juncus krausii#Sea Rush  +1, 8, 12
Leersia hexandraa grass+7  
Myriophyllum artesium*^ +3, 4, 5  
Myriophyllum sp.  +7  
Pennisetum alopecuroides* +3  
Phragmites australis#*Common Reed+3, 11 +1, 8, 9, 10, 12
Plantago gaudichaudii* +3  
Portulaca oleracea  +11 
Schoenoplectus pungens  +11 
Scirpus litoralis   +10
Scirpus maritimusClubrush  +10
Sporobolus mitchelliiRats Tail-couch +11 
Sporobolus pamelae^Spring Grass+4, 5, 7  
Sporobolus virginicus#Salt Couch  +1, 8, 10, 12
Stemodia folrulenta  +11 
Typha domingensis#Cumbungi, Bullrush+7 +8, 9
Utricularia caerulea* +3  
Utricularia dichotoma* +3  


# Obligate spring wetland species in Lake Eyre Supergroup (Fatchen & Fatchen 1993)

* Obligate spring wetland species in Elizabeth Springs, Springvale Supergroup (Fensham et al. 2004b)

^ Obligate spring wetland species in Edgbaston and Myross Springs, Barcaldine Supergroup (Fensham et al. 2007b, c)

Sources

1. Kinhill Stearns (1984)

2. Westbrooke and colleagues (2003)

3. Fensham and colleagues (2004b)

4. Fensham and colleagues (2007b, c)

5. Fairfax and colleagues (2007)

6. McLaren and colleagues (1986)

7. Wilson (1995)

8. Kinhill (1997)

9. Department of Environment and Heritage (SA) (2005)

10. Symon (1985)

11. Benson and colleagues (2006)

12. Fatchen and Fatchen (1993)

In some springs in the Dalhousie Supergroup (South Australia) and Flinders River Supergroup (Queensland), woody vegetation is present. The structure of the vegetation includes open-forest, woodland, open woodland, shrubland and tall shrubland (Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2008e; Mollemans 1989; Symon 1984). Different species are dominant in the two supergroups, with Melaleuca leucadendra and Pandanus spp present in the Flinders River Supergroup (Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2008e; Fensham et al. 2007) and Melaleuca glomerata most abundant in the Dalhousie Supergroup (Harris 1989; Mollemans 1989; Symon 1984).

A summary of regional variation in the vegetation is described under Description.

Non-vascular plants

Although non-vascular plant and related organisms in Great Artesian Basin discharge wetlands are not as well known as vascular plants (Fensham et al. 2007), Ponder (1995) noted that green and blue-green algae are usually conspicuous in them. Non-vascular organisms are known to occur in springs in the following two supergroups in South Australia.

Lake Eyre Supergroup:

  • supports at least 35 species of photosynthetic algae (red, green and blue green algae), non-photosynthetic protozoan taxa, and pennate and centric diatoms (Kinhill 1997).

The Dalhousie Supergroup:

  • two species of moss, three species of liverwort and two fungal species occurred in or were associated with Dalhousie spring mounds (Mollemans 1989); the liverworts were only found in moist habitats associated with the springs
  • supports at least three species of green algae (Chlorophyta), including Chara sp. (Symon 1984), 31 species of blue-green algae (Cyanophyta) and 21 species of diatoms (Bacillariophyta) (Ling et al. 1989).

The algae in springs in the Dalhousie and Lake Eyre supergroups include 13 species of larger filamentous algae (Chlorophyta and Chrysophyta) (Skinner 1989).

Some non-vascular plant species in discharge springs accumulate calcium carbonate and play an important role in spring morphology (Kinhill 1997; see also Description).

A range of bacteria-like organisms are known from Great Artesian Basin bore waters (e.g. see Byers et al. 1998; Kanso 2004; Kanso & Patel 2003; Kimura et al. 2005; Spanevello 2001) but have not been reported from discharge spring water.

Fauna

The Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands provide suitable habitat for a wide variety of aquatic and semi-aquatic animals, including species of fish, frogs and aquatic invertebrates such as snails, flatworms, insects and their larvae, and amphipod, isopod and ostracod crustaceans that are dependent on the moisture in the springs for survival (Fensham et al. 2007; McLaren et al. 1986; Ponder 1994).

Species of birds, mammals, spiders, mole crickets and occasionally reptiles also use the wetlands or are associated with them (Fensham et al. 2007). Many of the species are widespread throughout the Great Artesian Basin region, and often found in or associated with other water bodies (Fensham et al. 2007). Bird, mammal and reptile species generally do not rely solely on the springs for survival (Harris 1992; Kinhill 1997).

At least 65 endemic faunal species are associated with the discharge springs of the Great Artesian Basin (Fensham et al. 2007, Appendix 2). They include species that have evolved recently as well as species considered to be relics of formerly widespread populations whose ranges retreated as inland Australia became increasingly arid from the late Tertiary or early Pleistocene (Glover 1989; Harris 1992; Kinhill 1997; Perez et al. 2005; Ponder 1986, 1989, 1994; Ponder & Clark 1990; Ponder et al. 1989). For example, Perez and colleagues (2005) note that the snail genus Jardinella, which has 18 endemic species in the Great Artesian Basin (Fensham and colleagues 2007), has experienced at least three separate colonization events over geological time, two of which have since radiated to the northern and eastern parts of the Basin. The species of Jardinella are considered to represent relictual endpoints of radiation that commenced in the (mid?) Tertiary (Ponder & Clark 1990). Species of Jardinella are now confined to individual springs in Queensland (Fensham et al. 2007).

Fensham and colleagues (2007) note that many more endemic invertebrate species are likely to exist in Great Artesian Basin discharge springs, particularly among groups like the Ostracoda and spiders.

Vertebrate fauna: birds

Fifty-eight bird species have been recorded in the vicinity of ten major spring-complexes in South Australia, of which nine were considered frequent visitors to springs, 19 infrequent visitors and 30 occasional visitors (Kinhill 1997). Badman (1985) reported that 48 species had been recorded from springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup, of which only eight species were recorded frequently (> 60% of sightings), 15 species infrequently (20–60% of sightings) and 25 species occasionally (1–20% of sightings). The species were mainly considered to be opportunistic.

Read (1997) reported that the Clamorous Reedwarbler (Acrocephalus stentoreus) and Little Grassbird (Megalurus gramineus) were "locally obligately associated with the Phragmites stands" supported by springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup located on islands in Lake Eyre South. Five bird species were observed drinking water from springs and other species were also assumed to use the permanent supply of water for drinking. Although the bird species on the islands were considered dependent on free water or wetland vegetation supported by the springs (Read 1997), the species regularly use wetland habitats in other parts of the Lake Eyre region (e.g. see Badman 1985; Read 1997).

Vertebrate fauna: other

Read (1997) reported the Paucident Planigale (Planigale gilesii) was occasionally known to use stands of Phragmites associated with springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup located on islands in Lake Eyre South. Although the planigale were considered dependent on free water or wetland vegetation supported by the springs on the islands, Read noted the species regularly use wetland habitats in other parts of the Lake Eyre region.

Seventeen reptile species have been recorded in habitats in the vicinity of mound springs in South Australia (Kinhill 1997), including 12 species from springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup (Thompson 1985). The reptiles are not dependent on the presence of free water, and occur because of the terrestrial habitat such as limestone associated with the springs (Thompson 1985).

Kinhill (1997) noted that frogs are generally absent from mound springs in South Australia because of the salinity of the water. Although the Spotted Grass Frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) has been reported to be present adjacent to many springs in the Dalhousie Supergroup and abundant in the tail of one spring (MJ Smith 1989), the populations are considered to be introduced (Kinhill 1997).

Twelve native and one introduced fish species (Mosquito Fish, Gambusia holbrooki) have been recorded from Great Artesian Basin discharge springs (Unmack 2003b), of which nine native and the introduced Gambusia holbrooki occur in springs in South Australia (Kinhill 1997). Eight of the fish species are considered endemic (Fensham et al. 2007, Appendix 2). Not every native species occurs in every spring with fish (Glover 1989) and different spring-complexes contain different numbers of native fish species (Unmack 2002). Native fish species known from discharge springs in the Great Artesian Basin are listed in the table below.


Scientific name (E) = EndemicCommon nameSpring-complex/ Supergroup
Chlamydogobius eremiusDesert GobyNumerous spring-complexes/Lake Eyre1
Chlamydogobius gloveri (E)Dalhousie GobyDalhousie/Dalhousie1
Chlamydogobius micropterus (E)Elizabeth Springs GobyElizabeth Springs/Springvale1
Chlamydogobius squamigenus (E)Edgbaston GobyEdgbaston/Barcaldine1
Craterocephalus dalhousiensis (E)Dalhousie HardyheadDalhousie/Dalhousie1
Craterocephalus eyresiiLake Eyre HardyheadDalhousie/Dalhousie1; five spring-complexes/Lake Eyre1
Craterocephalus gloveri (E)Glover's HardyheadDalhousie/Dalhousie1
Craterocephalus sp.Myross HardyheadEdgbaston-Myross/Barcaldine1
Leiopotherapon unicolorSpangled PerchDalhousie and Lake Eyre supergroups2; recorded once from Edgbaston/Barcaldine 2
Mogurnda thermophila (E)Dalhousie MogurndaDalhousie/Dalhousie1
Neosilurus gloveri (E)Dalhousie CatfishDalhousie/Dalhousie1
Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis (E)Redfinned Blue eyeEdgbaston/Barcaldine1


1. Fensham and colleagues (2007, Appendix 4)

2. Unmack (2003b)

Invertebrate fauna

The diversity of terrestrial and aquatic invertebrate species associated with Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands may be very high. For example, at springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup, the terrestial invertebrate fauna included 48 species of insects (Insecta), including Formicidae (13 spp.), Coleoptera (14 spp.), and Hemiptera (15 spp.), as well as 15 species of spider (Arachnida), six species of Collembola and one species of isopod (Crustacea) (Greenslade 1985). Around 30 species of native crustaceans have been found in springs in the Dalhousie Supergroup (Zeidler 1989). Not every invertebrate species is located in every spring (Kinhill Stearns 1984; Ponder 1989; Tap & Niejalke 1998; Zeidler 1989).

Aquatic invertebrates often occur in the discharge springs in very high numbers. For example, water in spring outflow of Blanche Cup, Lake Eyre Supergroup, may contain small snails and crustaceans in densities of 1 million/m2 (Ponder 2001). In the outflow of two other springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup, the population density of two snail species reached 370 000/m2 (Niejalke & Richards 1998).

Aquatic invertebrates include those capable of dispersal over substantial distances (e.g. Hemiptera, Coleoptera, Diptera) and those with limited dispersal ability and often without resistant stages in their life cycle (e.g. hydrobiid gastropods and species of isopod and amphipod) (Mitchell 1985). Mitchell (1985) noted the latter species, which comprise the "unique spring faunal assemblage", are often endemic. Few terrestrial invertebrate species associated with springs are considered endemic, even though the spring terrestrial invertebrate fauna is distinct from that in nearby bores, creek beds and surrounding arid habitats (Greenslade 1985).

Fifty-seven endemic invertebrate species are known to occur in Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands, and include (Fensham et al. 2007, Appendix 2):

  • 11 species of crustaceans (including four amphipods in the genus Austrochilotonia, the ostacod Ngarawa dirga and several species of isopod)
  • one dragon fly species
  • five arachnid species
  • 37 mollusc species (including six species in the genus Fonscochlea, 18 species in the Hydrobiid snail genus Jardinella)
  • three flatworm species, including the recently described species Dugesia artesiana and a species in a newly described genus, Weissius capaciductus (Sluys et al. 2007).

The Barcaldine and Lake Eyre supergroups support the highest number of known endemic invertebrate species, around double the number known from the Eulo and Dalhousie supergroups, and more than four times the number known from the Lake Frome and Springvale supergroups (see spring fauna under Description).

Fensham and colleagues (2007, Appendix 2) list the Yabbie found in one spring-complex in the Dalhousie Supergroup as an endemic species, Cherax sp. Sokol (1987). Although these yabbies are morphologically distinct from the common yabbie (Cherax destructor), (Sokol 1987) noted it was not clear whether these differences were genetic or related to the environmental conditions at the spring (including high water temperatures).

The distribution of individual endemic invertebrate species varies considerably. For example, 36 species are each known from only a single spring-complex (sometimes the same spring-complex) in the Barcaldine, Dalhousie, Eulo and Springvale supergroups (Fensham et al. 2007, Appendix 2 and Appendix 4). Other species are more widespread, e.g. the crustacean Phreatomerus latipes has been recorded in 30 spring-complexes in the Lake Frome Supergroup (Fensham et al. 2007, Appendix 2). During a survey of 662 discharge springs in South Australia, 13 species of endemic invertebrates were recorded (one species each of amphipod, isopod and ostracod and 10 species of hydrobiid snails). Of these species, the isopod was present in 62% of springs, the ostracod in 77% of springs, and the amphipod in 45% of springs. One snail species was present in 52% of springs, but five other snail species occurred in 9% of springs or less (Tap & Niejalke 1998).

Some Great Artesian Basin discharge springs have a high abundance and diversity of spiders, including endemic species, relictual species and species locally confined to the spring habitat (Lamb 1998). Of the five species of spider considered to be endemic, three species are associated with the Lake Eyre, Lake Frome or Dalhousie supergroups in South Australia and the other two species with the Eulo and/or Barcaldine supergroups in Queensland (Fensham et al. 2007, Appendix 2). Most information on spiders comes from springs in South Australia (see Description).

Ponder (1986) commented that little was known then about the microscopic aquatic fauna associated with Great Artesian Basin discharge springs. This still appears to be the case.

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

Springs in the Great Artesian Basin are generally classified as either discharge springs or recharge springs (e.g. see Fensham & Fairfax 2003; Fensham et al. 2004a). Recharge springs are not part of the listed ecological community 'The community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin' (see Fensham et al. 2007; Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2001). The two types of springs are distinguished as follows.

The water in discharge springs is sourced from underground aquifers in which the water has had an extremely long residence time (Fensham & Fairfax 2003) and where the water reaches the ground surface via faults in the strata overlying the aquifer or from thin or exposed parts of the aquifer (Fensham et al. 2007; Ponder 2002). In contrast, the water in recharge springs represents overflow from aquifers (Ponder 2002), the water has a relatively short residence time and water flow rates are affected by recent rainfall events (Fensham & Fairfax 2003; Fensham et al. 2004a).

Recharge springs occur within areas (called recharge zones) on the eastern margin of the Great Artesian Basin (in Queensland) where water enters and recharges aquifers in the Basin (Fensham & Fairfax 2003; Water Management and Use Group 2007). Water in discharge springs arises from confined aquifers, while water in recharge springs is supplied from aquifers that are not confined (Water Management and Use Group 2007).

Recharge springs are associated with outcropping sandstone, and are often located in gullies in rugged landscapes where they form the water source for streams (Fensham et al. 2007). Fensham and colleagues (2007) note that all springs associated with the following sandstone formations are excluded from the listed ecological community:

  • the Adori, Boxvale, Clematis, Expedition, Gilbert River, Griman Creek, Gubberamunda, Hampstead, Hooray, Hutton and Precipice sandstones
  • the Bulimba, Glenidal, Moolayember, Piliga, Rewan, Wallumbilla and Westbourne formations
  • the Helby and Ronlow Beds.

Recharge springs show more variability in their flow rates, and have lower pH and fewer dissolved solids than discharge springs (Fensham & Fairfax 2003; Fensham et al. 2007). They are also floristically distinct from discharge springs (Fensham et al. 2004a).

Fensham and colleagues (2007) have categorised springs throughout the Great Artesian Basin into "discharge" and "recharge" types. Recharge springs occur in five supergroups (see table below); supergroups are explained in Description).


Supergoup Spring types present
New South Wales
Bogan RiverDischarge
BourkeDischarge
Queensland
BarcaldineDischarge and Recharge
BourkeDischarge
Cape YorkRecharge only
EuloDischarge
Flinders RiverDischarge and Recharge
Mitchell/Staaton RiversDischarge and Recharge
Mulligan RiverDischarge
SpringsureDischarge and Recharge
SpringvaleDischarge
South Australia
DalhousieDischarge
Lake EyreDischarge
Lake FromeDischarge


Source: Appendix 4 of Fensham and colleagues (2007)

Other types of springs and wetlands excluded from the listed ecological community are:

  • springs within the Great Artesian Basin area with water emanating from Tertiary aquifers positioned above the Great Artesian Basin sequence (see Fensham et al. 2004a, 2007; Habermehl 1982; Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2001)
  • springs arising from basalts (see Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2001)
  • water-holes in drainage lines that may be partially sustained by Great Artesian Basin groundwater (see Fensham et al. 2007)
  • wetlands in the Great Artesian Basin Region that are not sustained by a relatively constant water supply and thus are subject to seasonal drying out (see Fensham et al. 2007)
  • springs in the marine environments of the Gulf of Carpentaria (see Fensham et al. 2007).

Sodic and salty non-wetland areas, although intimately associated with Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands, are also excluded from the listed ecological community (see Fensham et al. 2007; Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2001).

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

The listed ecological community 'The community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin' is associated with 12 spring supergroups (see Description) located in discharge areas on the northern, western and southern margins of the Great Artesian Basin in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia (Fensham et al. 1997). The specific locations of individual spring-groups in each state is provided in Appendix 4 of Fensham and colleagues (2007).

The general locations of the supergroups are summarised in the subsequent table. The distribution of individual spring-groups and spring-complexes is shown in the map of Environmental Resources Information Network (2003). It should be noted that this map includes springs that are not part of the listed ecological community, as it shows all springs in the Great Artesian Basin, some of which would be recharge springs (see Similar Communities) as well as inactive springs and some springs outside the Basin.


SupergoupGeneral location
Queensland
BarcaldineUpper reaches of Thompson River (Fairfax et al. 2007), in a north-south line from north of Aramac to east of Aramac and south to east of Barcaldine and Blackall.
Bourke West of Hebel, in Toulby and Job's gates area.
EuloWest and south-west of Eulo towards Hungerford.
Flinders RiverFlinders River area, north and north-west of Richmond.
Mitchell/Staaton RiversMitchell/Staaton Rivers area.
Mulligan RiverMulligan River area, west of Bedourie.
SpringsureHeadwaters of the Nogoa, Dawson, Maranoa and Warrego rivers (Habermehl 1982), east of Injune and north to north-east of Taroom.
SpringvaleUpper catchment of the Diamantina River (Fensham et al. 2007a), east and south-east of Boulia (Habermehl 1982) to south-west of McKinlay.
New South Wales
Bogan Rivernorth-west of Walgett, north-east of Coolabah and west of Carinda.
BourkeMostly north-east to north-west of Bourke, with some springs east of White Cliffs.
South Australia
DalhousieDalhousie area on western side of Simpson Desert.
Lake EyreSouth of Lake Eyre, in an arc roughly from Marree towards William Creek and north to Oodnadatta, including southern part of Lake Eyre North and Neales River area west of Lake Eyre North.
Lake FromeLake Frome area.


Great Artesian Basin springs are located in the following IBRA regions: Brigalow Belt North, Brigalow Belt South, Cape York Peninsula, Channel Country, Cobar Peneplain, Darling Riverine Plains, Desert Uplands, Einasleigh Uplands, Flinders Lofty Block, Gawler, Gulf Plains, Mitchell Grass Downs, Mount Isa Inlier, Mulga Lands, Simpson Strzelecki Dunefields, South Eastern Queensland and Stony Plains. Determining whether a spring in any of these regions is part of the listed ecological community (i.e. is a discharge spring associated with the Great Artesian Basin) or not (i.e. a recharge spring, or a spring outside the Great Artesian Basin) requires an assessment of the indivual spring (see Appendix 4 of the Recovery Plan (Fensham et al. 2007)).


Current extent

Accurate data on the area of Great Artesian Basin discharge springs is available only for Queensland, although broad estimates are possible for New South Wales and South Australia.

In Queensland, the total area of active Great Artesian Basin discharge springs is about 75 ha (see table below). A discharge spring is considered to be active "if it has permanent free water visible at the surface, or where groundwater supports wetland vegetation or mud mounds" (Fensham et al. 2007, Appendix 3).


Queensland Supergroups Wetland area (ha)
Barcaldine16.8
Bourke0.3
Eulo4.1
Flinders River25.5
Mitchell/Staaton Rivers1.8
Mulligan River1.2
Springsure25.0
Springvale7.7
Total area74.7


Source: calculated from Appendix 4 of Fensham and colleagues (2007)

In New South Wales and South Australia, the size class distribution of active springs is shown in the table below. Based on these figures, it can be estimated that the total area of active springs in New South Wales is < 0.1 ha. In South Australia, no data is available for 35 spring-complexes (28% of all active spring-complexes). Of the 89 for which data are available, 81% of wetlands are < 1 ha in area, 20% are 1–10 ha in area and only one complex has a total wetland area of 100–1000 ha (see table below).


 Number of active discharge spring-complexes in size class (ha)
Spring Group< 0.0010.001–0.010.01–0.10.1–11–10100–1000No data
New South Wales
Bogan River1      
Bourke2 1    
Total no.3 1    
South Australia
Dalhousie    110
Lake Eyre88192714023
Lake Frome11441012
Total no.99233116135
New South Wales + South Australia
Total no.129243116135


Source: calculated from Appendix 4 of Fensham and colleagues (2007)

If the data for South Australia and New South Wales are combined, and the midpoint of each size class used as a rough general indicator of spring wetland size, the total area of active Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands in these two states is much less than 1000 ha.

If all the above data are combined, the current total estimated area of active Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia is unlikely to exceed 1000 ha.

Pre-European settlement extent

The total area of active discharge spring wetlands across the Great Artesian Basin at the time of European settlement is not known. However, it is likely to be substantially greater than the above estimate. This is because at least 40% of spring-complexes in the Basin are estimated to have become inactive since European settlement, and some springs within another 14% of spring-complexes have become inactive since then (Fensham et al. 2007). It is also likely that there would have been a greater number of large spring wetlands at the time of European settlement than now because the outflow of artesian ground water would have been substantially greater (Fensham & Fairfax 2003).


The estimated total extent of active Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands in 2007 was no more than 1000 ha. Even allowing for the high proportion of spring-complexes that have become wholly or partly inactive since European settlement and the probably greater number of large-sized spring wetlands at that time, it is likely that the total area of Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands prior to European settlement would have been less than 10 000 ha. It can thus be concluded that the ecological community can be considered naturally restricted.


Active Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands in Queensland range in size from a few square metres to about 1.5 ha (Fensham et al. 2007a, b). In New South Wales, Benson and colleagues (2006) estimated that springs would have been < 1 ha in size on average at the time of European settlement. Today, active spring-complexes in New South Wales are < 0.1 ha in size, while 81% of active spring-complexes in South Australia are estimated to be < 1 ha in size (see previous table).

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

Knowledge on the number of springs in the community has increased, and there are now far more known springs than at the time of listing (ABC News 2013). A regional manager from South Australia said, "there were records of about 800 springs in the area, but new research has found about 5000" (ABC News 2013). Further effort is required to make details of this finding publicly available.

The following table presents data on specific mound springs that are part of the listed ecological community. Data has been paraphrased and partial column titles correspond to the following values: "Act." to active springs; "Inac." to inactive springs; "Rad." to kilometres distance from centre of complex; "Area" to area in hectares; "Exc." to level of excavation; "Fen." to extent of site fencing; "Rank" to conservation rank (see Functionality section for details); "Flow" to litres of flow a day; "% dec." to decrease in flow from calculated pre-1900 flow rates. Data taken from Fensham and colleagues (2007):

ID Name State Supergroup NRM water area Latitude Longitude Act. Inac. Rad. Area Exc. Fen. Rank Flow % dec.
2 DawsonRiver2 Qld Springsure Surat North -25.514 150.058 1   1.0 0.240 no no 3 31297.6  
5 Boggomoss Qld Springsure Surat North -25.440 150.034 25   6.0 10.9 part part 1b 3040249  
6 DawsonRiver5 Qld Springsure Surat North -25.441 150.030 16   11.0 10.5 no part 1b 2905925  
8 DawsonRiver8 Qld Springsure Surat North -25.567 149.802 1   1.0 0.240 no no 3 31297.6  
9 CockatooCrk Qld Springsure Surat North -25.723 150.251 7   3.0 0.405 no no 1b 43609.1  
10 Beppery Qld MulliganR Western -24.061 138.639 2 1 2.0 0.026 no no 3 1025.8  
11 Bookera Qld MulliganR Western -24.021 138.510 3 3 3.0 0.178 no no 3 14004.9  
12 Alnagata Qld MulliganR Western -24.018 138.456 4   4.0 0.116 part yes 3 8165.5  
14 Ethabooka Qld MulliganR W Carlo -23.751 138.493 1   1.0 0.000 total yes 4 0.5  
15 Pitchamurra Qld MulliganR W Carlo -23.786 138.653 1   1.0 0.060 no no 3 4405.0  
17 Allawanga Qld MulliganR W Carlo -23.578 138.668 2   2.0 0.105 no no 3 7337.4  
18 Natural Well Qld MulliganR North West -23.471 138.773 1   1.0 0.005 no no 3 127.4  
19 Talaera Qld MulliganR North West -23.481 138.785 1   1.0 0.030 no no 3 1652.6  
20 Peenunga Qld MulliganR North West -23.436 138.813 4   3.0 0.328 part no 3 30141.5  
21 Double Qld MulliganR North West -23.497 138.785 8   3.0 0.326 no no 2 24104.1  
22 Coorabulka Qld Springvale North West -23.685 139.989 1 3 8.0 0.001 no no 3 9.8  
23 Springvale S Qld Springvale North West -23.668 140.690 1   1.0 0.150 no no 3 16099.0  
24 SprCreek Qld Springvale North West -23.568 140.697   1 1.0 0.000   no 5 0.0  
25 Elizabeth-Sps Qld Springvale North West -23.342 140.584 48   2.0 7.4 no no 1a 1284930 85.12
26 BullaBulla1 Qld Springvale North West -23.031 140.481 1 3 7.0 0.064 no no 3 4800.0 87.59
27 ReedySpr Qld Springvale North West -22.890 140.442 1 6 4.0 0.090 no no 1a 7816.4 97.28
28 Redhead Qld Springvale North West -22.773 140.518   2 3.0 0.000   no 5 0.0  
29 LittleTeaTree Qld Springvale North West -22.967 140.464   3 2.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
30 Locharock Qld Springvale North West -22.960 140.534   1 1.0 0.000   no 5 0.0  
31 TeaTreeSps Qld Springvale North West -22.943 140.463   4 3.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
32 Hamilton River Qld Springvale North West -22.630 140.569   28 10.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
33 Pathungra Qld Springvale North West -22.406 140.568   1 1.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
34 Respondez Qld Springvale Flinders -21.631 140.968   2 1.0 0.000   no 5 0.0  
46 KidstonA Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -23.451 145.586   1 1.0 0.000   no 5 0.0  
48 KidstonB Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -23.261 145.604   1 1.0 0.000   no 5 0.0  
49 Coreena Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -23.289 145.409 13   3.0 2.4 no no 1a 527108  
54 Jersey Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -23.081 145.504 3 1 2.0 0.022 no no 3 801.6 99.82
57 Garrawin Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.452 145.019 3   5.0     no 3    
58 Friendly Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -22.940 145.514   3 6.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
59 5mile Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -22.865 145.464   3 10.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
63 63 Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -22.831 145.551   2 1.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
65 Edgbaston/ Myross Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -22.735 145.433 54 8 7.0 2.4 no no 1a 213384.2 76.33
75 McDonald's Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -22.336 145.290   2 5.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
77 Archer's Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -22.303 145.354 6   2.0 0.013 no no 1b 257.9 0
79 Kennedy's/ McKenzies Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -22.295 145.381 2   3.0 0.010 no no 1b 255.6 0
80 Smokey Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -22.254 145.320 2   3.0 0.439 no no 1a 57312.5  
81 Caring Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -22.171 145.383 8 8 5.0 6.5 no part 1b 2050479 2.18
82 82 Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -22.166 145.462   7 3.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
90 Moses Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -22.087 146.240 11   4.0 5.0 part no 1a 1351772  
91 Chiara's teardrop Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -22.050 145.333   1 5.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
93 Big Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -21.96669 145.38470   1 1.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
95 HiHo Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -21.922 145.379 1   1.0 0.010 no no 3 359.3  
98 98 Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -21.816 145.367   4 2.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
99 99 Qld Barcaldine Barcaldine N -21.656 145.361   5 4.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
101 Cookeygerima Qld MulliganR W Carlo -23.646 138.756 3 8 6.0 0.001 no no 3 3.8  
103 Towery Qld/ NSW Bourke Surat -28.970 146.917 9   6.0 0.185 part no 2 9120.0 0
104 Thorlinda Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.917 144.757   2 1.0 0.000   no 5 0.0  
105 Riley Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.881 144.410   1 1.0 0.000   yes 5 0.0  
106 Indian Finch Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.880 144.343   1 1.0 0.000   yes 5 0.0  
107 Ego Qld Bourke Surat -28.851 146.792 6   2.0 0.064 no yes 3 2579.9 0
108 Curry Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.840 144.493   1 1.0 0.000   yes 5 0.0 100
109 Ranong/Talaroo Qld Eulo Central -28.850 144.192   2 3.0 0.000   no 5 0.0  
110 Fish Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.725 144.422 3 7 8.0 0.032 no part 3 1200.0 95.00
111 Kapingee Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.786 144.306   4 13.0 0.000   yes 5 0.0  
112 slydog Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.739 144.414   2 2.0 0.000   yes 5 0.0  
113 carwindow Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.717 144.507 4 1 3.0 0.104 part yes 3 6302.9  
114 Youlain Qld Eulo Central -28.708 144.156   2 2.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
115 Kungi Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.690 145.237   1 1.0 0.000   no 5 0.0  
116 Gourminya Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.652 144.311   1 1.0 0.000   no 5 0.0  
117 Goomerah Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.635 144.636   1 1.0 0.000   no 5 0.0  
118 Bitherty Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.579 145.007   2 2.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
119 Woolshed Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.566 144.443   1 1.0 0.000   no 5 0.0  
120 Borer Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.545 144.326   1 1.0 0.000   no 5 0.0  
121 ShireTank Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.545 144.661   1 1.0 0.000   no 5 0.0  
122 Gooringara Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.537 144.543   2 4.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
123 Curracunya Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.499 144.188   1 1.0 0.000   no 5 0.0 100
124 Tareen Qld Eulo Warrego E -28.473 144.369 4 5 3.0 0.051 total no 4 2166.5

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

The distribution of Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands is naturally fragmented (see Distribution) and populations of aquatic species are known to be highly dynamic and subject to both population extirpation and colonisation events in individual springs.


The integrity of 'The community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin' is significantly affected by changes in water discharge, and by physical disturbance to the springs and their biota, for example through excavation and from animal impacts etc (see Threats).

Across the Basin, about 3350 springs are active, representing about 78% of all springs for which data are available (see table below). Thus 22% of springs are now inactive, and their dependent native species lost. Of the 348 discharge spring-complexes in the Basin, 58% contain active springs which are known to have, or may have, important biological values (see table below). Thus 42% of spring-complexes are either inactive (and have lost their spring dependent biota) or so highly degraded the integrity of the dependent suite of native species has probably also been lost or significantly reduced.


Supergoup Total no of spring-complexes (% ranked 1–3*)Total no of active springs (% of all springs active)
New South Wales
Bogan River3 (67%)1 (17%)
Bourke29 (35%)33+ (16+%)
Total no. (%)32 (34%)34+ (16+%)
Queensland
Barcaldine23 (39%)97 (64%)
Bourke2 (100%)15 (100%)
Eulo61 (43%)86 (40%)
Flinders River50 (16%)20 (17%)
Mitchell/Staaton Rivers2 (100%)2 (100%)
Mulligan River12 (92%)31 (72%)
Springsure7 (100%)59 (100%)
Springvale15 (33%)52 (48%)
Total no. (%)172 (41%)362 (51%)
South Australia
Dalhousie2 (100%)145 (100%)
Lake Eyre116 (83%)2043 (83%)
Lake Frome26 (89%)770 (99.6%)
Total no. (%)144 (84%)2958 (88%)
Great Artesian Basin
Total no. (%)348 (58%)3354 (78%)


Source: calculated from Fensham and colleagues (2007) Appendix 4.

* Rank categories of Fensham and colleagues (2007).

1a: Complex contains active springs; at least one endemic species not known from any other location present.

1b: Complex contains active springs; endemic species known from more than one spring-complex present or has populations of threatened species listed under state or Commonwealth law that do not conform to category 1a.

2: Complex contains active springs; provides habitat for isolated populations of plant and/or animal species.

3: Complex contains active springs without identified biological value; includes springs that are not highly degraded and may have important biological values with further study.

4: Complex contains active springs but all springs are highly degraded, i.e completely excavated.

5: All springs inactive.

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

Fensham and colleagues (2007) provided a conservation ranking of all Great Artesian Basin discharge spring-complexes based on the individual spring within a complex that had the greatest values. The rank categories are listed above under Functionality. Spring complexes with rank categories 1a, 1b and 2 contain springs that can be assumed to be in relatively good condition, while complexes with rank categories 4 and 5 are in poor condition.

Twelve spring-complexes with exceptional biological values because of the endemic biota they contain (and ranked 1a) are summarized below (Source: Table 2 of Fensham and colleagues (2007)).

Spring complex (Supergroup) Number of endemic species only known from the specific spring-complex Number of species endemic to spring wetlands
Edgbaston/Myross (Barcaldine)



Plants: 3
Fish: 2
Crustacea: 1
Molluscs: 11
Other invertebrates: 2
Plants: 6
Crustacea: 1
Other invertebrates: 1

Dalhousie (Dalhousie) Fish: 5
Crustacea: 3
Other invertebrates: 1
Yowah Creek (Eulo)

Crustacea: 1
Molluscs: 4
Plants: 7
Crustacea: 2
Other invertebrates: 2
Elizabeth Springs (Springvale) Fish: 1
Molluscs: 1
Plants: 4
Moses (Barcaldine)

Plants: 1
Molluscs: 1
Plants: 6
Other invertebrates: 1
Paroo River (Eulo)

Molluscs: 1

Plants: 2
Crustacea: 2
Other invertebrates: 1
Smokey (Barcaldine) Molluscs: 1 Plants: 2
Molluscs: 1
Coreena (Barcaldine) Molluscs: 1 Plants: 2
Reedy (Springvale) Molluscs: 1 Plants: 2
Granite (Eulo) Molluscs: 1 Plants: 2
Tunga (Eulo) Molluscs: 1 Plants: 1
Boggomoss (Springsure) Molluscs: 1  


The following table identifies  significant species at spring mounds (Fensham et al. 2007). Merged cells  do not represent continuation of springs:

ID Name Supergroup Invasive plants Gambusia Endemic flora Endemic fish Endemic crustacea Endemic molluscs Endemic other invertebrates Possible endemic species Other significant fauna Other significant flora
5 Boggomoss Springsure Para Grass (Urochloa mutica)                 Sticky Daisy (Adenostemma lavenia), Laportea interrupta, Prickly Tea-tree (Leptospermum juniperinum)
6 DawsonRiver5 Springsure                   Sticky Daisy, Hairy Joint-grass (Arthraxon hispidus; V), Fimbristylis tetragona, Prickly Tea-tree, Salomonia ciliata, Thelypteris confluens, Blue Bladderwort (Utricularia caerulea), Wahlenbergia stricta subsp. alterna
9 CockatooCrk Springsure     Salt Pipewort (Eriocaulon carsonii; E), Myriophyllum artesium, Plantago sp. (R. Fensham 3677)              
20 Peenunga MulliganRiver Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)                  
21 Double MulliganRiver                   Fimbristylis ferruginea
25 Elizabeth-Sps Springvale     Eragrostis fenshamii, Salt Pipewort (E), Myriophyllum artesium, Plantago sp. (R. Fensham 3677) Elizabeth Springs Goby (Chlamydogobius micropterus; E)   Jardinella isolata   Diplonychus sp. Type 3, Hebrus sp. AMS. K197714, Fimbristylis sp. Elizabeth Springs R.J.Fensham 3743   Swamp Foxtail (Pennisetum alopecuroides), Schoenus falcatus, Blue Bladderwort, Fairy Aprons (Utricularia dichotoma), Isotoma fluviatalis
27 ReedySpr Springvale     Eragrostis fenshamii, Salt Pipewort (E)     Jardinella sp. AMS C.447677   Fimbristylis sp. Elizabeth Springs R.J.Fensham 3743   Fairy Aprons
49 Coreena Barcaldine Para Grass   Myriophyllum artesium, Sporobolus pamelae     Jardinella coreena     Caridina thermophila  
65 Edgbaston/ Myross Barcaldine Para Grass Present Salt Pipewort (E), Blue Devil (E), Hydrocotyle dipleura, Isotoma sp. (RJ Fensham 3883), Myriophyllum artesium, Peplidium sp. (Edgbaston R.J.Fensham 3341), Sporobolus pamelae, Eriocaulon aloefolium, E. giganticum Redfin Blue Eye (Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis; E), Edgbaston Goby (Chlamydogobius squamigenus; V) Austrochiltonia sp. AMS P68165 Jardinella edgbastonensis, J. corrugata, J. pallida, J. jesswiseae, J. zeidlerorum, J. acuminata, Edgbastonia alanwillsi, Glyptophysa sp. AMS C.381628, Gyralus edgbastonensis, Gabbia fontana, J. sp. AMS C.415845 (Myross) Nannophya sp. AMS K20814, Dugesia artesiana, Venatrix sp.QM SO342, WAM T63302 Bassianobdella sp., Vivabdella sp., Sternopriscus sp. AMS. K197715 Caridina thermophila, Craterocephalus sp. Eleocharis pusilla, Swamp Rice-grass (Leersia hexandra), Swamp Foxtail, Common Reed (Phragmites australis), Schoenus falcatus
77 Archer's Barcaldine         Austrochiltonia sp. AMS P68165   Dugesia sp. AMS W29055   Antipodrillus sp.4 n.sp, Cyprinotus sp, Ilyocypris sp, Plesiocypridopsis newtoni, Bennelongia sp  
79 Kennedy's/ McKenzies Barcaldine     Hydrocotyle dipleura, Sporobolus pamelae              
80 Smokey Barcaldine     Hydrocotyle dipleura, Myriophyllum artesium     Gabbia davisi, Jardinella colmani   Vivabdella sp. Caridina thermophila  
81 Caring Barcaldine Rubber Vine (Cryptostegia grandiflora) Present Salt Pipewort (E), Myriophyllum artesium     Jardinella colmani Mamersella sp.MS KS85341, Dugesia sp. AMS W29055 Bassianobdella sp, Vivabdella sp. Smartweed (Persicaria decipiens)
90 Moses Barcaldine Hymenachne (Hymenachne amplexicaulis)   Salt Pipewort (E), Blue Devil (Eryngium fontanum; E), Hydrocotyle dipleura, Isotoma sp. (RJ Fensham 3883), Myriophyllum artesium, Sporobolus pamelae     Gabbia rotunda Mamersella sp. AMS KS85341     Eleocharis cylindrostachys, Fuirena umbellata, Swamp Millet (Isachne globosa), Ischaemum australe, Northern Swamp Isotome (Isotoma fluviatilis), Indian Cupscale Grass (Sacciolepis indica), Broad-leaved Cumbungi (Typha orientalis)
95 HiHo Barcaldine   Present                
103 Towery Bourke   Present               Cyperus laevigatus
129 Jubilee Eulo               Placobdelloides, Alboglossiphonia Plesiocypridopsis newtoni  
130 Gooning Eulo                  
133 Granite Eulo     Eragrostis fenshamii, Myriophyllum artesium     Jardinella eulo   Helobdella or Placobdelloides (possible new sp) Plesiocypridopsis newtoni, Candonidae sp WP2 n.sp. Blue Bladderwort
136 Wooregym Eulo                 Spreading Sneezeweed (Centipeda minima)
139 Tunga Eulo     Myriophyllum artesium     Jardinella sp. AMS C.156780       Spreading Sneezeweed, Smooth Buttercup (Ranunculus pentandrus), Schoenus falcatus, Fairy Aprons
142 Merimo Eulo     Eragrostis fenshamii, Myriophyllum artesium           Cyprinotus sp n.sp, Plesiocypridopsis newtoni  
144 Paroo R. Eulo       Ponderiella ecomanufactia, P. bundoona Jardinella sp. AMS C.410721 n.gen. n.sp. AMS W29020   Cyprinotus sp n.sp, Plesiocypridopsis newtoni, Candonidae sp WP2 n.sp  
148 Carpet Eulo     Myriophyllum artesium              
153 Goonamur Eulo                 Plesiocypridopsis newtoni, Candonidae sp WP2 n.sp  
156 YowahCrk Eulo   Present Eragrostis fenshamii, Salt Pipewort (E), Hydrocotyle dipleura, Isotoma sp. (RJ Fensham 3883), Myriophyllum artesium, Sporobolus pamelae, Plantago sp. (R. Fensham 3677)   Austrochiltonia sp. AMS P68160, Ponderiella ecomanufactia, P. bundoona Jardinella sp. AMS C.400131, J. sp. AMS C.400130, J. sp. AMS C.400133 , J. sp. AMS C.400132 Mamersella sp. AMS KS85341, Weissius capaciductus Placobdelloides, Fimbristylis sp. Elizabeth Springs R.J.Fensham 3743 Antipodrillus sp.4 n.sp, Plesiocypridopsis newtoni, Candonidae sp WP2 n.sp, C. sp WP5 n.sp, C. sp WP8 n.sp, C. sp WP9 n.sp, Heterocypris sp n.sp, C. sp WP10 n.sp,, C. sp WP13 n.sp, C. sp WP14 n.sp, Caridina thermophila Swamp Foxtail, Narrow-leaf Native Plantain (Plantago gaudichaudii), Schoenus falcatus, Blue Bladderwort
157 DeadSea Scrolls Eulo     Eragrostis fenshamii, Hydrocotyle dipleura, Sporobolus pamelae             Large Mudwort (Limosella curdieana)
171 Fullarton FlindersRiver   Present                
199 Black FlindersRiver                   Fimbristylis complanata
205 Trent FlindersRiver                   Fimbristylis denudata
208 Nara FlindersRiver     Fimbristylis blakei             Blyxa aubertii, Eleocharis cylindrostachys, Woolly Waterlily (Philydrum lanuginosum)
230 LuckyLast Springsure     Salt Pipewort (E)             Swamp Millet, Nodding Club-rush, Swamp Foxtail
260 Scotts Crk Springsure                 Cyperus laevigatus, Lygodium flexuosum, Schoenus falcatus
285 LeesGrave Mitchell/ Staaten Rivers Rubber Vine             Paraplea sp. AMS. K208008    
286 Gammyleg Mitchell/ Staaten Rivers     Salt Pipewort (E)           Paraplea sp. nov.n.sp Cyperus laevigatus
AES Edith Lake Eyre         Ngarawa dirga          
ATS Tarlton Lake Eyre                  
BBH Beresford Hill Lake Eyre         Phreatomerus latipes, Ngarawa dirga, Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227 Fonscochlea aquatica, F. variabilis, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia smithi Venatrix fontis      
BWS Warburton Lake Eyre Annual Beard-grass (Polypogon monspeliensis)         Desert Goby (Chlamydogobius eremius)  
CBC Blanche Cup Lake Eyre         Fonscochlea aquatica, F. variabilis, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia punicea Venatrix fontis, Tetralycosa arabanae    
CBS Buttercup Lake Eyre         Phreatomerus latipes, Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227 Fonscochlea aquatica, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia punicea      
CCS Coward Lake Eyre Annual Beard-grass       Phreatomerus latipes, Ngarawa dirga, Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227, Caradinia sp. Mitchell (1985) Fonscochlea aquatica, F. variabilis, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia punicea Venatrix fontis, Gymnochthebius fontinalis   Desert Goby Gahnia triffida, Sea Rush (Juncus kraussii)
CEN Elizabeth N Lake Eyre         Venatrix fontis, Tetralycosa arabanae, Promacrostomum palum   Bare Twigrush (Baumea juncea), Sea Rush
CES Elizabeth S Lake Eyre         Phreatomerus latipes, Ngarawa dirga, Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227      
CHS Horse E Lake Eyre         Venatrix fontis, Tetralycosa arabanae      
CHW Horse W Lake Eyre         Fonscochlea aquatica, F. variabilis, Trochidrobia punicea      
CJS Jersey Lake Eyre         Fonscochlea aquatica, F. variabilis, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia punicea   Desert Goby  
CKH Kewson Hill Lake Eyre         Promacrostomum palum      
CMH Mt Hamilton Ruin Lake Eyre         Ngarawa dirga Fonscochlea zeidleri, Trochidrobia punicea        
CSS Strangways Lake Eyre         Phreatomerus latipes, Ngarawa dirga, Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227 Fonscochlea aquatica, F. billakalina, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia smithi Tetralycosa arabanae     Gahnia triffida, Sea Rush
DAA-DGA Dalhousie Dalhousie Date Palm, Annual Beard-grass     Dalhousie Hardyhead (Craterocephalus dalhousiensis), Glover's Hardyhead (C. gloveri), Dalhousie Goby (Chlamydogobius gloveri), Dalhousie Mogurnda (Mogurnda thermophila), Dalhousie Catfish (Neosilurus gloveri) Austrochiltonia dalhousiensis, Phreatochilotonia anophthalma, Cherax sp. Sokol (1987) Austropyrgus centralia, Caldicochlea harrisiC. globosa Venatrix fontis, Gymnochthebius subsulcatus Halicyclops sp; Ostracoda: Candonidae, Cytheidae, Darwinulidae, Ostracoda: Entocytheridae, Limnocytheridae, Isopoda: Phillosciidae, Isopoda: Armadillidae, Copepoda: Ectinosomatidae Artoria victoriensis, Desert Hardyhead (Craterocephalus eyresii), Ctenotus saxatilis, Spotted Grass Frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis), Desert Tree Frog (Litoria rubella), Eastern Spiny-tailed Gecko (Strophurus intermedius)  
DHA Dalhousie Ruins Dalhousie Date Palm                  
EFN Freeling N Lake Eyre   Present     Phreatomerus latipes, Ngarawa dirga Fonscochlea aquatica, F. expandolabra, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia inflata, T. minuta Venatrix fontis   Desert Goby Baumea juncea, Sea Rush
EFS Freeling Lake Eyre Date Palm, Annual Beard-grass       Phreatomerus latipes, Ngarawa dirga, Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227   Desert Goby, Desert Tree Frog Bare Twigrush, Baumea arthrophylla, Gahnia triffida, Sea Rush
ESC Sandy Crk Lake Eyre         Ngarawa dirga          
EWS Wilparoona Lake Eyre                   Gahnia trifida
FES Emily Lake Eyre           Fonscochlea billakalina, Trochidrobia smithi        
FFS Francis Swamp Lake Eyre         Phreatomerus latipes, Ngarawa dirga, Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227 Arthritica sp. AMS C.449156, Fonscochlea aquatica, F. billakalina, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia smithi Venatrix fontis, Tetralycosa arabanae   Artoria victoriensis, Desert Goby, Desert Hardyhead Bare Twigrush, Gahnia triffida, Sea Rush
FWS William Lake Eyre         Phreatomerus latipes          
HBO Bopeechee Lake Eyre         Phreatomerus latipes, Ngarawa dirga, Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227 Fonscochlea accepta, F. variabilis, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia punicea       Bare Twigrush, Common Fringe-rush (Fimbristylis dichotoma)
HBS Beatrice Lake Eyre         Ngarawa dirga          
HDB Dead Boy Lake Eyre         Phreatomerus latipes, Ngarawa dirga, Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227 Fonscochlea accepta, Trochidrobia punicea        
HFW Finniss Well Lake Eyre Athel Pine (Tamarix aphylla)       Fonscochlea accepta        
HHS Hermit Hill Lake Eyre     Salt Pipewort (E)   Fonscochlea accepta, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia punicea Mamersella ponderi, Tetralycosa arabanae Fimbristylis sp. Elizabeth Springs R.J.Fensham 3743   Bare Twigrush, Common Fringe-rush, Gahnia triffida, Sea Rush
HNW North West Lake Eyre             Common Fringe-rush
HOF Old Finniss Lake Eyre       Tetralycosa arabanae    
HOW Old Woman Lake Eyre         Fonscochlea accepta, F. variabilis, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia punicea        
HSS Sulphuric Lake Eyre     Salt Pipewort (E)   Fonscochlea accepta, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia punicea       Common Fringe-rush
HWF West Finniss Lake Eyre     Salt Pipewort (E)   Fonscochlea accepta, F. variabilis, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia punicea       Bare Twigrush, Common Fringe-rush, Gahnia triffida, Sea Rush
KBK Billa Kalina Lake Eyre         Arthritica sp. AMS C.449156, Fonscochlea aquatica, F. billakalina, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia smithi     Desert Goby, Desert Hardyhead Sea Rush
LCI Centre Island Lake Eyre         Ngarawa dirga          
LES Emerald Lake Eyre         Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227, Phreatomerus latipes, Ngarawa dirga Fonscochlea accepta     Desert Goby  
LFE Fred Lake Eyre         Ngarawa dirga        
LGS Gosse Lake Eyre     Salt Pipewort (E)     Venatrix fontis, Tetralycosa arabanae    
LMS McLachlan Lake Eyre           Tetralycosa arabanae      
LSS Smith Lake Eyre                
NBP Big Perry Lake Eyre Date Palm       Phreatomerus latipes, Ngarawa dirga, Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227 Fonscochlea aquatica, F. expandolabra, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia smithi, T. minuta        
NBS Brinkley Lake Eyre         Fonscochlea aquatica, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia smithi        
NFS Fanny Lake Eyre         Phreatomerus latipes, Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227 Fonscochlea aquatica, F. expandolabra, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia minuta, T. smithi       Sea Rush
NHS Hawker Lake Eyre         Phreatomerus latipes, Ngarawa dirga, Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227 Fonscochlea aquatica, F. expandolabra, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia smithi Venatrix fontis   Desert Goby, Desert Hardyhead Gahnia trffida, Sea Rush
NLS Levi Lake Eyre         Ngarawa dirga Fonscochlea zeidleri       Sea Rush
NMI Milne Lake Eyre Annual Beard-grass       Phreatomerus latipes, Ngarawa dirga   Venatrix fontis      
NOS Outside Lake Eyre Annual Beard-grass Present     Phreatomerus latipes, Ngarawa dirga, Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227 Fonscochlea aquatica, F. expandolabra, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia minuta, T. smithi   Desert Goby  
NPS Primrose Lake Eyre         Phreatomerus latipes, Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227          
NSH Spring Hill Lake Eyre         Ngarawa dirga Fonscochlea zeidleri Venatrix fontis   Desert Goby Gahnia trifida
NTF The Fountain Lake Eyre Annual Beard-grass       Phreatomerus latipes, Ngarawa dirga, Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227 Fonscochlea aquatica, F. expandolabra, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia minuta, T. smithi      
NTM Twelve Mile Lake Eyre Annual Beard-grass       Venatrix fontis     Sea Rush
NTV The Vaughan Lake Eyre Annual Beard-grass                  
OPC Petermorra Lake Frome     Salt Pipewort (E)       Mamersella ponderi     Fairy Aprons, Common Fringe-rush
OPH Public House Lake Frome                
OTW Twelve Lake Frome                 Common Fringe-rush
PBI Birribiana Lake Eyre Bamboo         Fonscochlea aquatica     Desert Goby  
PCN Cootanoorina Lake Eyre Athel Pine                
PCS Cardajal-burrana Lake Eyre                  
PCT Coota-barcoollia Lake Eyre   Present                
POS Old Nilpinna Lake Eyre Date Palm               Desert Goby, Desert Hardyhead Sea Rush
PSW South Well Lake Eyre             Venatrix fontis   Desert Goby  
PWA Warran-garrana Lake Eyre               Desert Hardyhead  
PWE Weedina Lake Eyre         Ngarawa dirga          
PWN Weedina N Lake Eyre                 Desert Hardyhead  
QLB Lake Blanche Lake Frome Annual Beard-grass                 Creeping Monkey-flower (Mimulus repens), Streaked Arrow-grass (Triglochin striatum)
QSU Sunday Lake Frome                
UAS Allandale Lake Eyre         Ngarawa dirga          
UBC Big Cadna-owie Lake Eyre         Fonscochlea zeidleri Venatrix fontis   Desert Goby  
ULC Little Cadna-owie Lake Eyre                  
UOS Ockenden Proper Lake Eyre                 Desert Goby  
UWS Wandillinna Lake Eyre Date Palm                  
WDS Davenport Lake Eyre Athel Palm       Phreatomerus latipes, Ngarawa dirga, Austrochiltonia sp. SAM C.6227 Fonscochlea accepta, F. variabilis, F. zeidleri, Trochidrobia punicea        
WWS Welcome Lake Eyre Athel Palm           Desert Goby  
ZMS Mulligan Lake Frome             Tetralycosa arabanae      
ZUK Callabonna M Lake Frome                   Sea Rush
ZUL Callabonna E Lake Frome                  
ZUM Callabonna S Lake Frome                  
542 Peery Bourke     Salt Pipewort (E)             Fairy Aprons

About 42% of discharge spring-complexes can be considered to be in poor condition, either because there is no longer any discharge of water from the aquifers (Category 5 springs of Fensham et al. 2007) or because they have been highly degraded (Category 4 springs of Fensham et al. 2007) (see Functionality). These types of springs either have no spring-dependent species associated with them (and thus technically are not be part of the listed ecological community) or their biotic structure and species composition is significantly altered.

Inactive and highly degraded springs may still have intrinsic value in relation to the listed ecological community, for example because viable seed of rare plant species may still be present in their soil (Noble et al. 1998) or because some springs where water flow has ceased have been known to resume flowing following local changes in water pressure (Kinhill 1997).

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

Discharge springs in the Great Artesian Basin have been described and/or mapped as follows.

Queensland (regional ecosystems mapped at 1:100 000 scale)

  • Regional Ecosystem 2.3.39 (Spring wetlands on recent alluvium; Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2008a) (see Ecosystem Conservation Branch 2005).
  • Regional Ecosystem 4.3.22 (Springs on recent alluvia and fine-grained sedimentary rock/shales; Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2008b) (see Ecosystem Conservation Branch 2005; Fensham et al. 2004a). Springs in Tertiary aquifers in this regional ecosystem are not part of the listed ecological community (see Similar Communities).
  • Regional Ecosystem 5.3.23 (Springs on recent alluvia and fine-grained sedimentary rocks; Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2008c) (see Ecosystem Conservation Branch 2005; Fensham et al. 2004a). Springs in Tertiary aquifers in this regional ecosystem are not part of the listed ecological community (see Similar Communities).
  • Regional Ecosystem 6.3.23 (Springs on recent alluvia, ancient alluvia and fine-grained sedimentary rock/shales; Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2008d) (see Ecosystem Conservation Branch 2005; Fensham et al. 2004a).
  • Regional Ecosystem 10.3.31 (Artesian springs emerging on alluvial plains; Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2008e) (see Ecosystem Conservation Branch 2005; Fensham et al. 2004a). Although this community is not mappable at 1:100 000 scale (Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2008e), Fensham and Fairfax (2003) have identified point locations.
  • Regional Ecosystem 11.3.22 (Springs associated with recent alluvia; Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2008f) (see Ecosystem Conservation Branch 2005). Recharge springs in this regional ecosystem are not part of the listed ecological community (see Similar Communities).

New South Wales

  • Vegetation Community ID 66: Artesian Mound Spring forbland/sedgeland/grassland mainly of the Mulga Lands Bioregion (Benson et al. 2006).

Major studies relating to spring supergroups and/or that collate information about discharge springs across the Basin or within states are listed below in chronological order. This list is not intended to be comprehensive.

  • Habermehl (1982) - collated information available at the time on origins, hydrology, structure and water chemistry of springs across the Great Artesian Basin.
  • Kinhill Stearns (1984) - studied and collated information on water chemistry, vegetation, hydrobiid snails, other aquatic animals, birds and hydrogeology of Hermitt Hill springs and others in the Lake Eyre Supergroup.
  • Greenslade and colleagues (1985) - collated information collected during multi-disciplinary field surveys of springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup, South Australia.
  • McLaren and colleagues (1986) - summarised the biology of spring-complexes and spring-groups in South Australia.
  • Pickard (1992) - surveyed 26 spring-complexes in the Western Division of NSW.
  • Wilson (1995) - collated information on artesian springs in Queensland, including location, flow status of springs, and list of some plant species recorded from springs.
  • Zeidler and Ponder (1989) - reported the findings of a detailed flora and fauna survey and study of the geology and hydrology of springs in the Dalhousie Spring Group in South Australia.
  • Ponder and Clark (1990) - analysed hydrobiid snails in discharge springs in western Queensland.
  • Ponder and colleagues. (1995) - analysed hydrobiid snails in discharge springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup, South Australia.
  • Environment Australia (2001) - collated information about various springs included in the Directory if Important Wetlands in Australia, e.g. Great Artesian Basin Springs - NSW098; Peery Lake - NSW101; Boggomoss Springs - Qld010; Aramac Springs - Qld079; Elizabeth Springs - Qld118; Eulo Artesian Springs Supergroup - Qld177; Dalhousie Springs - SA067; Lake Eyre Mound Springs - SA068.
  • Fairfax and Fensham (2002) - examined the hydrological status of springs in the Springvale, Flinders River and Barcaldine supergroups.
  • Fairfax and Fensham (2003) - examined the hydrological status of springs in southern Queensland.
  • Fensham and Fairfax (2003) - analysed information about distribution, physiography and biology of discharge springs in the Queensland portion of the Great Artesian Basin.
  • Fensham and colleagues (2004a) .- analysed the floristic and environmental relationships of discharge springs in the Queensland portion of the Great Artesian Basin.
  • Ponder (2004) - a synthesis of information on endemic macroinvertebrates in artesian springs of Qld, NSW and SA.
  • Fensham and colleagues (2007) - collated information on hydrological status and biota of discharge springs across the Great Artesian Basin.


The only comprehensive, ongoing monitoring program of Great Artesian Basin discharge springs appears to be that of springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup located in the general vicinity of the Olympic Dam Mine near Roxby, South Australia.

Following baseline surveys in 1983 and 1986, WMC (Olympic Dam Corporation) Pty Ltd has been monitoring, on an annual basis, the vegetation of many discharge springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup since 1987 as part of its Olympic Dam mining operations (Kinhill 1997). The monitoring includes species presence, estimates of relative abundance and condition from each of more than 350 springs and their wetlands (see Kinhill 1997). This monitoring is complemented by intensive monitoring at springs in the Hermit Hill spring-complex, based on permanent transects and permanent photo-points (Fatchen & Fatchen 1993; Kinhill 1997).

Wetland area is also monitored using low level (1:10 000) aerial photography (Niejalke et al. 2001; Niejalke & Kovac 2002; WMC (Olympic Dam Corporation) Pty Ltd 2004) with follow-up on-ground assessment as considered necessary (WMC (Olympic Dam Corporation) Pty Ltd 2004).

Invertebrate fauna in springs in four spring-complexes have also been monitored since 1986 to assess the impact of aquifer drawdown associated with the mining operations (see Kinhill 1997). The monitoring is based on annual field-based sampling (WMC (Olympic Dam Corporation) Pty Ltd 2004), and includes recording the presence and abundance of invertebrate groups, general aquatic invertebrate species richness, and water quality data. An overview of the invertebrate monitoring and changes introduced in 1995 are outlined in Kinhill (1997). Water flow rate is measured from monthly to biannually (depending on the program) in over 40 springs and water chemistry measured quarterly (see Kinhill 1997).

Spring flows are also monitored using combinations of weir gauging, bucket-stop watch and fluorometric dye-gauging (WMC (Olympic Dam Corporation) Pty Ltd 2003b cited in Fensham et al. 2007).


Using models backed by field data, Tyre and colleagues (2003) determined the bias related to false-negative records (i.e. when a species is present but not detected), including in Great Artesian Basin mound spring invertebrate populations. They concluded that for studies relying on presence-absence data, such as for mound spring invertebrates, repeated surveys should be carried out on at least a subset of sample sites to allow confident conclusions to be drawn from such data.

Monitoring of snail populations in discharge springs in order to determine population trends are probably best undertaken in winter, as the snail density is lower than at other times and the majority of individuals are adults, which assists in their identification (Niejalke & Richards 1998).

Because of the relationship established by Fatchen (2001a) between wetland area and spring flow, Fensham and colleagues (2007) concluded that accurate measurements of wetland area appear to provide considerable potential for monitoring spring discharge and the environmental impacts of groundwater draw-down from mining. Mudd (2000) noted that measures of the quality and quantity of water flowing to individual springs should not based on averages over large spring-groups, as this masks declines and impacts from aquifer drawdown.

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

Discharge springs in South Australia and New South Wales are known to have been fully or partially submerged by natural floods following major rainfall events (e.g. Hermit Hill and Blanche Cup spring-groups, Lake Eyre Supergoup; Pickard & Norris 1994; Ponder 1986). In New South Wales, springs located in lakes have been reported to have remained submerged for 12–18 months (Benson et al. 2006; Pickard & Norris 1994).

Extreme flooding events may result in the extirpation of snail species from individual springs when they are "swept clean" of their invertebrate populations (see Worthington Wilmer & Wilcox 2007), or may also result in severe reductions of snail populations (Ponder 1986). It should also be noted that floods may allow aquatic fauna to colonise discharge springs (see Description).

While natural flooding of springs for long periods might negatively impact on some plant species (Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) 2005b), Pickard and Norris (1994) reported that the endangered plant species Eriocaulon carsonii (Salt Pipewort) was apparently unharmed in the long-term by submergence for up to 18 months.

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

Basin-wide documents

When adopted, the national recovery plan (Fensham et al. 2007) will provide the main framework for the management of Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands and their dependent biota. The overall objective of the plan is to maintain or enhance groundwater supplies to Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands, maintain or increase habitat area and health, and increase all populations of endemic organisms.

The draft national recovery plan (Fensham et al. 2007) also includes the following specific objectives:

  • ensure flows from springs do not decrease (lower than natural variability) and are enhanced in some areas
  • achieve appropriate tenure-based security to protect against future threatening processes
  • minimise the impact of stock and feral animal disturbance and manage total grazing pressure
  • minimise the threat of exotic plants and aquatic animals, and reduce their effects
  • ensure that impoundments do not degrade spring values
  • maintain populations and improve habitat for endemic organisms where required using monitoring and adaptive management
  • engage custodians in responsible management of springs
  • develop community education and extension programs.

The Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan (Great Artesian Basin Consultative Council 2000) provides a comprehensive framework within which governments with jurisdiction in the Basin can manage its resources, including water. The Strategic Management Plan includes, as a principle to guide basin management, the following:

"Allocation of the Basin's groundwater resources needs to make provision for the water needs of groundwater-dependent ecosystems. Environmental requirements for basin water need to be properly assessed and appropriate provision made for environmental flows to maintain natural spring ecosystems".

Key outcomes sought in the Strategic Management Plan relevant to the protection of native species dependent on Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands include reduction of water wastage, control of water discharge in the Basin, and restoration of groundwater pressure. It includes a number of strategies to protect, maintain and/or restore the environmental values of groundwater dependent species/ecosystems and specifies a target of "no net loss of natural groundwater dependent ecosystems" within the 15 year life of the plan.

The Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan outlines the policy, institutional and program arrangements in place at the time of its preparation, and noted that under the Plan, each state and the Northern Territory was required to develop an implementation plan consistent with the overarching strategic plan (Great Artesian Basin Consultative Council 2000).

Documents applying within states

Queensland

In Queensland, the Water Resource (Great Artesian Basin) Plan 2006 (Queensland Government 2006b) is a key plan governing water use in the Great Artesian Basin. The objectives of the plan include providing "a framework for sustainably managing water and the taking of water" and identify "priorities and mechanisms for dealing with future water requirements". The first outcome specified in the plan is "to protect the flow of water to springs and baseflow to watercourses that support significant cultural and environmental values." In section 12 (Protection of springs) it states that "A water licence granted for taking water in the plan area must be consistent with the criteria for the protection of the flow of water to springs and baseflow to watercourses stated in the resource operations plan".

The Great Artesian Basin resource operations plan (Water Management and Use Group 2007) gives effect to the Water Resource (Great Artesian Basin) Plan 2006 (Queensland Government 2006b). It provides for the sustainable management of water by

  • protecting the significant environmental and cultural values of springs and watercourses
  • defining criteria for protection of flow to springs and baseflow to watercourses that must be considered when dealing with water licences
  • setting conditions of water licences for protection of flow to springs and baseflow to watercourses.

The 2003–2008 natural resource management plan for the South West region in Queensland (South West NRM Ltd 2007) includes a water management action "Provide support for natural resource monitoring associated with Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative, particularly associated with mound spring pressure recovery". This region contains the Eulo Supergroup of discharge springs.

Under the Queensland Government's 2001 'Policy for Development and Use of Ponded Pasture', ponded pastures (see 'Introduced ponded-pasture plants' under Threats) should not be established in or near natural wetlands (including discharge spring wetlands) because of the unacceptable impacts of species such as Brachiaria mutica (Para Grass) and Hymenachne amplexicaulis (Olive Hymenachne) (Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2005).

South Australia

In South Australia, the South Australian Arid Lands Natural Resources Management Board is responsible for natural resource management in that state's section of the Great Artesian Basin. Its Regional NRM Plan (South Australian Arid Lands Natural Resources Management Board 2007a) includes allocating water and maintaining springs in the Great Artesian Basin in the Board's Business Plan for 2007–2010. The Regional NRM Plan incorporates the 2004 Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan (South Australian Rangelands Integrated Natural Resource Management Group 2004) which includes management actions aimed at improving the management of springs, such as the development of codes of practice.

The draft biodiversity strategy for the Stony Plain Bioregion in South Australia (Department of Environment and Heritage (SA) 2005) included a 20 year target "Manage Great Artesian Spring Complexes for biodiversity values" with a 5-year performance criterion of "Number of Great Artesian Spring Complexes managed for biodiversity values".


Action taken to 2007

Fensham and colleagues (2007) summarise actions taken to reduce the threats to discharge springs in the Great Artesian Basin. They include the following (Fensham and colleagues (2007) unless shown otherwise):

Aquifer drawdown:

  • since 1989, nearly 500 bores in the Basin have been rehabilitated (Great Artesian Basin Consultative Council 2000)
  • Phase 2 of the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative has commenced.

Disturbance from livestock and feral animals:

  • some springs have been fenced (10 springs in South Australia were fenced by the state Government between 1986 and 1988; Harris 1992)
  • some monitoring and research is being conducted to document the effects of fencing and stock removal
  • pig control is conducted on properties with Category 1, 2 and 3 discharge spring wetlands.

Human modification of springs:

  • some landholders/managers have been made aware of threats to spring wetlands and the relevance of the EPBC Act.

Introduced species:

  • some landholders/managers have been made aware of threats to spring wetlands and the relevance of the EPBC Act
  • eradication of Date Palms has commenced at Dalhousie Springs
  • some control of other woody exotics has occurred
  • some information on locations of Gambusia and cane toads has been gathered.

Required future actions

Actions identified to address threats to the listed ecological community include the following (unless shown otherwise, from Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) 2005b, c; Ecosystem Conservation Branch 2005; Fensham et al. 2007):

Aquifer drawdown:

  • controlling flow from strategic bores (including capping of bores in close proximity to high priority springs; Fensham & Fairfax 2003)
  • reviewing historic spring flows
  • monitoring current spring flows
  • controlling new groundwater allocations.

Disturbance from livestock and feral animals:

  • appropriate grazing management, or fencing of selected springs to exclude stock
  • controlling feral animal species.

Human modification of springs:

  • protecting high conservation value discharge springs from excavation, and managing them, through perpetual agreements
  • prohibiting the inundation of springs
  • managing tourist access, and developing and implementing visitor management plans for selected sites subject to tourism.

Introduced species:

  • controlling invasive weed species
  • putting in place secure, tenure-based agreements to prohibit the establishment of exotic ponded pasture species in discharge spring wetlands
  • preventing further spread of Gambusia and other exotic fauna, including through the control of bores to reduce stream flows in bore drains (which will greatly reduce the habitat for aquatic pests including Gambusia, and reduce their capacity to disperse into spring wetlands)
  • implementing protocols to avoid transportation of organisms from one location to another
  • buffering habitat areas from the impacts of activities like cultivation.

Other actions required to recover plant and animal species dependent on the discharge springs include (Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) 2005b, c; Fairfax et al. 2007; Fensham et al. 2007; Sheldon 1999):

  • carrying out an inventory of all endemic species in the spring wetlands
  • monitoring populations of endemic species and better understanding their ecology and biology
  • maintaining appropriate flows to springs to ensure the survival of threatened endemic plant and animal species present
  • preserving the natural level of flow variability (daily and longer time scales) in springs
  • studying the interactions between native and exotic fauna
  • better understanding the habitat requirements of the spring dependent flora and fauna
  • better understanding the impacts of varying fire and grazing regimes on species composition and abundance
  • further investigating the physical and chemical characteristics of springs
  • re-establishing the natural values of reactivated springs
  • encouraging landholders to responsibly manage springs
  • increasing involvement of Indigenous custodians in spring management
  • raising community awareness of the importance of GAB discharge springs.

The draft biodiversity strategy for the Stony Plain Bioregion in South Australia (Department of Environment and Heritage (SA) 2005) cited the following as "best practice management strategies" for Great Artesian Basin Springs:

  • selectively addressing weed infestations
  • monitoring for early detection of new weed incursions, reporting and treating them
  • monitoring impacts of total grazing pressure on springs, particularly during drought years
  • managing discharge springs to maintain habitat variation and composition, to ensure one species does not dominate to the detriment of other species
  • ensuring surrounding artesian groundwater water pressure is maintained
  • managing tourism to reduce the impact of people on spring habitat.


Issues relevant to protection in reserves

Studies have shown that for discharge springs in the Great Artesian Basin, species diversity is often related to spring number rather than the area of an individual spring (see Ponder 1986). For hydrobiid snails, there is significant genetic differentiation within spring-complexes as well as between complexes (Ponder et al. 1995; Worthington Wilmer & Wilcox 2007). Ponder and colleagues (1995) found that small springs show greater genetic differentiation than large springs, while Worthington Wilmer and Wilcox (2007) found that individual springs appear to support discrete genetic populations of the same species. Dispersal of snails between springs in the same spring-complex is relatively high, but usually much lower between spring-complexes and declines with increasing distance between the complexes (Ponder & Colgan 2002; Worthington Wilmer & Wilcox 2007).

Because of the above types of species and genetic patterns, many springs (including small springs) within individual spring-complexes need to be protected in order to conserve invertebrate species and genetic diversity (Ponder 1986; Ponder et al. 1995; Sheldon 1999). In contrast, Kodric-Brown and Brown (1993) considered it important to protect the largest springs to maintain the diversity of fish species, because these contained a higher diversity of fishes.

Fensham and colleagues (2007) concluded overall that "the most important sites with the greatest chance of survival in the long-term will be the large multi-spring-complexes" and that "small isolated springs may require intensive management".

Because of the isolated nature of many springs, their scattered distribution and small size, Fensham and Fairfax (2003) stressed the importance of protecting the majority of springs through mechanisms like covenants for individual sites, rather than through acquisition for national parks. Fensham and Fairfax (2003) noted that any covenants should have conditions placed on them that prevent excavation of the springs, ensure bores are not developed in their vicinity, and prohibit the development of exotic ponded pasture.

Reserves containing Great Artesian Basin discharge springs

Some discharge springs in the Queensland part of the Great Artesian Basin are protected in the following reserves:

  • Elizabeth Springs Conservation Park (Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2008b; Fensham & Fairfax 2003; Fensham et al. 2007a)
  • Currawinya National Park (Fensham & Fairfax 2003)
  • Idalia National Park (Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2008d).

Some discharge springs in the New South Wales part of the Great Artesian Basin are protected in the following reserve:

  • Paroo-Darling National Park (Benson et al. 2006; Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) 2005c)

Some discharge springs in the South Australian part of the Great Artesian Basin are protected in the following reserves:

  • Witjira National Park (Department of Environment and Natural Resources (SA) 1995)
  • Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park (Department of Environment and Heritage (SA) 2008).


Fensham and colleagues (2007) note that Great Artesian Basin discharge springs ranked categories 1 and 2 (see Functionality should receive priority for preservation and conservation, while springs ranked category 3 require further information to be gained about them. Where most springs are severely degraded (categories 4 and 5), particularly in New South Wales, rehabilitation may be a high priority. The names, conservation rankings and locations of all discharge springs in the Great Artesian Basin are provided in Appendix 4 of Fensham and colleagues (2007).


Ponder (2002) commented that although spring management ideally should focus on the whole spring ecosystem, it should not ignore the special needs of individual springs that contain unique endemic taxa. Fensham and Fairfax (2003) also considered that the much smaller total area of spring wetland habitat present under current flow conditions than at the time of European settlement, because of reduced flows since then due to groundwater extraction, "demands a higher level of management precision to ensure suitable habitat for the remaining biota".

Management of the biomass of plant species such as Phragmites australis (Common Reed) at some discharge springs appears to be crucial because of the complex interactions between floristic diversity and biomass, and how biomass can affect aquatic faunal species (see Description). Fatchen (2001b) and Fensham and Fairfax (2003) noted that fire or grazing may sometimes be necessary to reduce the biomass of Phragmites australis to prevent it displacing other plant species.

Kodric-Brown and colleagues (2007) stressed the importance of a "sustained regime of disturbance and vegetation removal" to maintain appropriate habitat for native fish species, especially in smaller springs, to prevent the extirpation of fish populations. Necessary habitat included open water that was able to be oxygenated, and sufficient water flow to link outflows from different springs. They suggested this could be achieved through some combination of manual or mechanised vegetation removal, controlled burning or the reintroduction of large herbivorous animals (native or exotic).

However, because stock grazing is considered a key threat to discharge springs (see 'Disturbance from livestock and feral animals' under Threats), the benefits that accrue by controlling plant biomass through fire or stock grazing must be balanced against the adverse impacts that might result. Fatchen (2000a) noted that management disturbances such as burning, grazing/non-grazing/intermittent grazing regimes, and brushcutting may be necessary in order to achieve desired biodiversity outcomes at discharge springs.

Biomass management-fencing

The outcomes of fencing are generally maximization of plant biomass at the expense of available water, plant diversity and the aquatic fauna (Fatchen 2000a). However, there are numerous examples of where fencing has greatly improved the health of springs, and wetland recovery can be rapid following stock removal (Fensham et al. 2007). For example, denuded vegetation at Tego [Ego] Springs, Bourke SG/Supergroup, recovered after fencing to eliminate kangaroos, pigs and feral goats (Ecosystem Conservation Branch 2005; Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2005). Spectacular regeneration of grasses and of other plant species occurred within the fenced area, enhanced by 12 months of good local rainfall. Species associated with the spring wetlands, including Cyperus gymnocaulos (Spiny Flatsedge), Cynodon dactylon (Couch Grass) and Leptochloa fusca (Brown beetle Grass) had increased in abundance and density at most spring vents. Endemic aquatic invertebrate numbers have also been reported to recover quickly once stock are removed if some resident populations survive (Kinhill Stearns 1984).

The effects of fencing on the natural values of springs show that it varies with individual sites within a supergroup (Fatchen 2000a). Fensham and colleagues (2007) conclude that while it would be appropriate to maintain a grazing regime on spring wetlands in some cases, the consequences of fencing should be monitored to determine the effects. Fensham and colleagues (2004b) also noted that experience with fencing in one area/supergroup may not translate to other areas and they and Fensham and Fairfax (2003) cautioned on the need for fencing to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Biomass management-fire

Because fire caused by lightning was found to reduce the biomass of Phragmites australis (Common Reed) and benefit other plant species, at least in the short term, it has been considered an important management tool (Fatchen 2001b). Springs have had great significance for Aboriginal people (e.g. Boyd 1990a; McLaren et al. 1986) and in some areas there is evidence of Aboriginal occupation of spring areas dating from at least 5000 years ago in the late Holocene (Lampert 1989). It has therefore been speculated that Aboriginal use of fire may have helped to maintain springs in an open state (Fensham et al. 2007; New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service 2002a). However while charcoal from sediment cores shows that springs had been burnt during pre-European times (Boyd 1990b; Boyd 1994), Boyd (1994) noted there was little evidence to assume this was related to human impacts.

Experimental burns in winter on springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup showed that while fire destroys the aerial parts of Phragmites australis, its root biomass was largely unaffected by the burns (Davies 2001). The soil seed stores and underground parts of mature plants of Eriocaulon carsonii (Salt Pipewort) survived burning, largely due to the insulating properties of the water in which much of the plants were submerged (Davies 2001). Monitoring after winter burns at other springs in the Lake Eyre Supergroup showed that Phragmites recovered its dominance in the vegetation about 6 months after burning (Lamb et al. 2001). Lamb and colleagues (2001) suggested that burns in summer, when the species is at the peak of its growth cycle, may be more effective to control it. Fensham and colleagues (2007) suggested that grazing may be a more effective means of controlling Phragmites than fire.

Fensham and colleagues (2007) also note that fire will be an important management tool for controlling Phoenix dactylifera (Date Palm) in Dalhousie Springs to allow access for their removal and Rubber Vine (Cryptostegia grandiflora) where it may impact on springs in Queensland (Fensham and colleagues 2007).


Community networks

The Great Artesian Basin Consultative Council, established in 1997, contains representatives from government, industry and the community (Ponder 2002). The Council was established in 1997 to provide a "voice" for non-government sectors and to provide a "coordinating role between Commonwealth and State and Territory jurisdictions" (Seccombe 2002). The Council has developed a strategic management plan for the Great Artesian Basin (see above). Other structures established within the context of the Great Artesian Basin Consultative Council to ensure community involvement in individual jurisdictions included the Arid Areas Catchment Water Management Board (SA) (now replaced by the South Australian Arid Lands Natural Resources Management Board), the New South Wales Great Artesian Basin Advisory Committee and the Queensland Great Artesian Basin Advisory Council (Seccombe 2002).

The South Australian Arid Lands Natural Resources Management Board (2007b) takes a collaborative approach with local landholders and community groups such as the Friends of the Simpson Desert and the Friends of Mound Springs.

The community group Friends of Mound Springs (FOMS) was established in 2006 (Harris 2006) to provide a focus for individuals and organisations with an interest in or involvement with the artesian springs of the Great Artesian Basin (Harris 2008). It is South Australian based, being one of many Friends groups set up under the auspices of Friends of Parks Inc, an organisation dedicated to providing community support for the better management of the State's natural and cultural heritage, but it does not confine its interest solely to the springs of the South Australian portion of the Basin (Harris 2008). Harris (2008) notes that FOMS has a number of interstate members and produces a biannual electronic Newsletter, holds quarterly meetings and organises field trips to carry out on-ground management tasks and to provide field support for research workers.

The Friends of the Simpson Desert Parks also occasionally carries out works at the Dalhousie Springs in Wijira National Park. These have included removing feral plants such as Date Palms (Phoenix dactylifera) and establishing test sites and photo points to monitor water quality (Hancox 2007).

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). The community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin in Community and Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed 2014-09-22T14:41:58EST.