Channel Country - biodiversity
Vegetation growth in arid and semi-arid zones such as the Channel Country is limited by rainfall. The ranges support open bluebush (Maireana sp.) communities with sandalwood (Santalum lanceolatum), dead finish (Acacia tetragonophylla), western pittosporum (Pittosporum phylliraeoides), copperburr (Bassia sp.) and sparse mulga (Acacia aneura).
The lower slopes, tablelands and downs carry open mulga and belah (Casuarina cristata) patches, bluebush and bladder saltbush (Atriplex vesicaria), with Mitchell grass (Astrebla sp.) and other annuals growing on the stone-free steps of the contour bands in good seasons.
Much of the downs country often appears bare. Streams are fringed with coolabah (Eucalyptus microtheca), river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and gidgee (Acacia cambagei), with black box (Eucalyptus largiflorens), river cooba (Acacia stenophylla), prickly wattle (Acacia victoriae) and thorny saltbush (Rhagodia spinescens) occurring in floodouts.
The grey clays of the Bulloo carry canegrass (Eragrostis australasica), with lignum (Muehlenbeckia cunninghammii) and some black box on the edges of the lunettes.
Sand plains support sparse mulga, whitewood (Aytalaya hemiglauca), isolated desert poplar (Codonocarpus cotonifolius) and western bloodwood (Eucalyptus terminalis), as well as patches of woody shrubs and occasional old man saltbush (Atriplex nummularia).
Sturt National Park, in the northwest corner of NSW and the northwestern extent of the Channel Country Bioregion, is home to several species listed under the TSC Act 1995.
One such species is the vulnerable flame spider-flower (Grevillea kennedyana). Most of the known populations of the flame spider-flower are present in the "Jump-Up" region in Sturt National Park and the Channel Country Bioregion. The species is listed as vulnerable under Schedule 1, part 2 of the Commonwealth EPBC Act 1999 and as vulnerable under Schedule 2 of the TSC Act 1995.
The rare plants Ruppia tuberosa and Lepilaena preissii have been recorded at the Clifton Downs Lakes, with the only other known location of these plants in NSW at the Salt Lake in the nearby Simpson-Strzelecki Dunefields Bioregion (J. Porter, pers. comm.).
Threatened species predicted to occur in the area include desert carpet-weed (Glinus orygiodes), a perennial herb recorded in saline areas; saltbush (Atriplex sturtii), an annual recorded from claypans and alluvial plains; Dysphania platycarpa, an annual herb that grows near ephemeral waters; and Stackhousia clementii, a perennial herb that can be found on ephemeral swamp margins, clay and saline soils.
Fauna surveys in the Channel Country Bioregion have reported at least 34 native mammal, 231 bird, 22 amphibian, 13 fish and 125 reptile species (Sattler and Williams 1999).
Several species are endemic to the region. Reptiles endemic to the region include the Cooper Creek tortoise (Emydura sp.), skinks (Ctenotus astarte and C. aphrodite) and an unidentified blind snake (Ramphotyphlops sp.). The Elizabeth Springs goby fish (Chlamydogobius sp.) is endemic to Elizabeth Springs in the Diamantina catchment (Morton et al. 1995).
At least 7 mammal species have become extinct from the bioregion. These include the desert rat-kangaroo (Caloprymnus campestris), western quoll (Dasyurus geoffroii geoffroii), golden bandicoot (Isoodon auratus), pig-footed bandicoot (Chaeropus ecaudatus), lesser bilby (Macrotis leucura), burrowing bettong (Bettongia lesueur) and the crescent nailtail wallaby (Onychogalea lunata) (Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002).
The birds of the Channel Country Bioregion are typical of those found elsewhere in the semi-arid zone of NSW. The bioregion has significant waterbird populations such as the Australian spotted crake (Porzana fluminea), pink-eared duck (Malacorhynchus membranaceus), and inland dotterel (Peltohyas australis).
The bioregion supports one endemic species, the Bulloo sub-species of the grey grasswren (Amytornis barbartus barbartus), which inhabits the lignum and cane grass swamps along the Diamantina and Bulloo Rivers. Other threatened and limited range species, such as the Eyrean grasswren (Amytornis gorderi) and chestnut-breasted whiteface (Aphelocephala pectoralis), occur on the fringes of the bioregion.
Some types of birds such as grassland birds and freshwater birds, which have declined in other bioregions across the country, have remained stable in the Channel Country Bioregion and there has been a trend towards an increase in the numbers of granivorous birds (Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002).
The adoption of reduced, conservative grazing rates in key habitats across the bioregion, particularly in the Bulloo Overflow, needs to be considered if bird diversity in the bioregion is to be preserved. The maintenance of natural flow regimes will also help to protect the diversity of waterbirds.
Both the Bulloo Overflow - Carypundy Swamp and Salisbury Lake, also known as Lake Altibouka, are nationally significant wetlands (ANCA 1996) and are considered to be in good condition in the bioregion. Both these areas are, however, affected by weeds and feral animals.
The Bulloo Overflow - Carypundy Swamp is the terminal basin of an entire inland system of wetlands and is considered to be significant because it is representative of this type of terminal drainage basin and supports large numbers of waterbirds including the freckled duck (Stictonetta naevosa) when flooded. The lake is initially freshwater but becomes saline as water evaporates.
Salisbury Lake (Lake Altibouka) is a saltwater lake which is regularly flooded and supports large numbers and a high diversity of waterbirds such as the brolga (Grus rubicundus), blue-billed duck (Oxyura australis) and freckled duck (Stictonetta naevosa). Part of this wetland falls in a wildlife refuge.
Three other wetlands of regional significance occur in the Channel Country Bioregion. These wetlands are considered to be in good condition, although affected to varying degrees by weeds such as Noogoora Burr (Xanthium occidentale) and Heliotrope (Heliotropium peruviana), and feral animals such as pigs, goats, foxes and cats.
Bullea Lake is an important nesting habitat for waterbirds. The lake has been known to support more than 15,000 waterbirds (Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002), including the Eurasian coot (Fulica atra), pink-eared duck (Malacorhynchus membranaceus), grey teal (Anas gracilis) and maned duck (Chenonetta jubata).
The black swan (Cygnus atratus), straw-necked ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis), great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), yellow-billed spoonbill (Platalea flavipes) and purple swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) have also been recorded.
Clifton Downs Lakes consist of two lakes on the "Clifton Downs" property. The great egret (Ardea alba), caspian tern (Hydroprogne caspia), greenshank (Tringa nebularia) and sharp-tailed sandpiper (Calidris acuminata), all of which are internationally protected under the China Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (CAMBA), have been recorded on Clifton Downs.
Yantara Lake has recorded sightings of the endangered flock bronzewing (Phaps histrionica) and the vulnerable freckled duck (Stictonetta naevosa) in 1985 (NPWS 2001). In addition to this, Kingsford et al. (1994) sighted about 40 freckled duck (Stictonetta naevosa) on the lake in March 1993.
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Page last updated: 27 February 2011