Nature conservation

Threatened species

The community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: The community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin
Conservation status in NSW: Not listed
Commonwealth status: Endangered
Gazetted date: 04 Apr 2001
Profile last updated: 31 May 2022


The community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin, includes springs within the GAB discharge area (see Figure 4, Great Artesian Basin Consultative Council, 2000) that are the natural surface discharge points of aquifers in the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous sedimentary sequence of the Great Artesian Basin (Habermehl, 1982). Not included are those springs arising from Tertiary sediments and basalts. Natural discharge from the Great Artesian Basin may occur as springs, mound springs, mud springs, boggomoss springs (see Noble, et al., 1998), spring pools or groundwater seeps. Natural discharge springs mainly occur within twelve "spring groups" across the Basin (Habermehl and Lau, 1997). A number of these - the Cape York, Flinders River, Barcaldine, Springsure and Mulligan River groups - include some springs that arise from recharge rejection within the recharge areas of the Basin. These springs are not included in this determination. The community is comprised of native species which depend on the natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin for their existence. The community is characterised by combinations of native species that may occur more widely than the GAB, as well as endemic species (restricted to one or more GAB spring). Not every species of the ecological community will be present at every spring. Examples of such species include: Jardinella sp (endemic snail) Schoenoplectus pungens (flora species) Utricularia sp (aquatic forb) Cyperus gymnocaulos (flora species) Cyperus laevigatus (flora species) Eriocaulon carsonii (aquatic herb) Eucalyptus camaldulensis (flora species) Heliotropium curassavicum (flora species) Myoporum deserti (flora species) Sclerostegi sp. (flora species) Chlamydogobius sp (Elizabeth Springs goby) Further species are documented in Wilson (1995) and Fensham (2000). In order to meet the definition of the TEC sites must satisfy condition criteria stipulated in the Listing Advice and/or Conservation Advice. Typically condition is assessed by reference to patch size and vegetation structure thresholds or species composition metrics.


The Great Artesian Basin (GAB) lies within Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory. The GAB underlies about 22% of the Australian continent and is one of the largest artesian basins in the world.
Springs arising from the GAB occur within Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. In New South Wales, the highest density of artesian springs are located around the shore of Peery Lake within the Paroo-Darling National Park.

Habitat and ecology

  • 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 listed ecological community comprises discharge springs in the twelve supergroups - Bogan River & Bourke in NSW, plus Barcaldine, Dalhousie, Eulo, Lake Eyre, Lake Frome, Mitchell/Staaten Rivers, Mulligan River, Springsure and Springvale. A Supergroup is a major regional cluster of spring complexes with some consistent hydrogeological characteristics and geographic proximity.
  • Great Artesian Basin discharge spring wetlands mostly occur in topographically low points. In New South Wales, discharge springs are associated with lacustrine plains, playa plains, lake beds, claypans and the toe-slope of hills.
  • Great Artesian Basin discharge springs are typically described as having a head containing one or more vents (a point of water discharge at the ground surface from which water is issued and often forms a pool).
  • Springs may be at ground level or be associated with mounds. 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 or water-filled craters, to non-mounded springs with open water and well defined outflows, to non-mounded damp seepages.
  • The water discharge from springs within any one complex varies from spring to spring. The water discharge in more active springs is usually regular and gentle.
  • Most water discharging from Great Artesian Basin springs is neutral to alkaline. Although Great Artesian Basin spring water is often saline, salinity levels are also highly variable.
  • Spring wetlands may form vegetated swamps or vegetation may be absent if there is no water seepage. The vegetated area can vary with spring flow, water salinity level, stock grazing and trampling, sediment deposition or removal, 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.
  • Permanent water is essential throughout the life span for some vertebrates and many invertebrates associated with Great Artesian Basin spring wetlands, and for the larval stages of other invertebrate species.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Fensham and colleagues (2004) 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.
  • 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. Also recorded were Eriocaulon carsonii, Heliopterum curassavicaum, Schoenplectus pungens, Sclerostegia sp. and Utricularia sp. at these springs.
  • At other springs where moist soil provides the only indication of spring discharge, other sedges, grasses and a range of herbaceous species (eg in the families Asteracaea, Chenopodiaceae, Fabaceae and Portulacaceae) may be present. 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 near 150 years.

Regional distribution and habitat

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Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region