Semi-arid woodlands (shrubby sub-formation)

Vegetation formation map

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Estimated percentage landcover for vegetation formation


Australia’s semi-arid zone occurs in the interior of the continent, where average rainfall is less than 500mm per year, but more than 250mm. It covers one-third of New South Wales and although water is limiting, there is enough to support sclerophyllous tree-dominated vegetation and an understorey of drought-resistant shrubs and ephemeral grasses and herbs. There are two subformations: grassy and shrubby.

The shrubby subformation of semi-arid woodlands is generally more stunted in growth, has less grass cover and an abundance of perennial desert shrubs. Different substrates support different shrub communities, however all possess close floristic relationships with the arid shrublands of the west. In contrast, they have only limited affinities with vegetation formations to the east.

Parrots and cockatoos are diverse and conspicuous inhabitants of semi-arid woodlands, as is the charismatic though reclusive ground-dwelling mallee fowl. Mammalian fauna was originally rich and diverse, however many species have disappeared since European settlement. Medium-sized animals were the worst affected and some species are now extinct in New South Wales.

The semi-arid zone presented a tough and wild frontier for settlers and was the setting for famous expeditions by Oxley, Sturt and Mitchell. Squatters ventured into the zone in the 1840’s, and the discovery of artesian water lead to a rapid expansion and intensification of pastoralism across the region. Widespread overstocking soon exhausted resources, leading to massive soil erosion. Feral goats and rabbits have further compounded this, and controlling their numbers continues to be a challenge for management of semi-arid woodlands.

Threatened species in this vegetation formation

See a list of species, populations and ecological communities associated with the Semi-arid woodlands (shrubby sub-formation) formation.

Find species in a more specific vegetation class

The Semi-arid woodlands (shrubby sub-formation) formation can be divided into the following classes. Select a vegetation class on the list below to see a list of species associated with it: