- Includes land within Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory and New South Wales.
- Characterised by the 'channel country' - vast braided flood plains of the Georgina and Diamantina River systems.
- The main centres include Birdsville, Windorah and Innamincka.
- Very dry hot summers with unpredictable rainfall.
- Major oil and gas deposits within the Eromanga Basin.
- The nature reserves include the Innamincka Regional Reserve (SA). Diamantina Lakes National Park (Qld) and Sturt National Park (NSW).
Statistical Local Areas
The Channel Country bioregion is an area of about 284,700 sq. km of land within Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory and New South Wales. Approximately 70% of the bioregion lies within the arid south-west corner Queensland. The Channel Country bioregion is named after the vast network of flood and alluvial plains of the Georgina, Eyre, Cooper, Bulloo and Diamantina Rivers and Creeks. The main centres within the bioregion are Birdsville, Bedourie, Windorah, Thargomindah, Tibooburra, Innamincka and Moomba.
The bioregion has an arid climate with very dry hot summers and short dry winters. Rainfall is unpredictable in timing and quantity. The average annual rainfall ranges from 150mm to 250mm. The mean monthly temperature ranges from 24° C to 38° C in the summer and 7° C to 24° C in the winter.
Climate averages are available for Birdsville Police Station, Queensland:
http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/map/climate_avgs/a37.shtml and Moomba, South Australia: www.bom.gov.au/climate/map/climate_avgs/a17.shtml.
For monthly rainfall and temperature graphs refer to Bureau of Meteorology website: www.bom.gov.au/climate/forms/map_forms/new_imagemaps/qld_name.html.
Current seasonal conditions and their historical context can be provided by satellite imagery. The Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) is a measure of the vegetation 'greenness'. The NDVI for the Channel Country bioregion for this year and previous years can be found at: www.environment.gov.au/erin/ndvi/ttrace/cch.html.
For additional climate information the Queensland Department of Natural Resources 'The Long Paddock' at: www.dnr.qld.gov.au/longpdk provides seasonal variability information and the latest El Ni?o Southern Oscillation (ENSO) information. 'Silo' at: www.dnr.qld.gov.au/resourcenet/climate/#silo provides agro meteorological data, such as rainfall, temperature, radiation, climate outlook products. The Queensland Department of Natural Resources Patched Point Dataset and Data drill at: www.dnr.qld.gov.au/resourcenet/silo/index.html, provides information on climatic risk management in agriculture, pastoralism, water resources and natural resource management.
The Channel Country bioregion is characterised by vast braided, flood and alluvial plains of the Diamantina and Coopers Plains (Dawson 1974, Mills 1980, Turner 1993 and Sattler & Williams, 1999). Surrounding the floodplains are gravel or gibber plains, dunefields and low ranges. The low resistant hills and tablelands are remnants of the flat-lying Cretaceous (65-140 million years ago) sediments. The bioregion is within the Eromanga Basin, which contains major oil and gas deposits.
Sattler & Williams (1999) have defined 5 provinces within the bioregion on the basis of climate, geology, landform and vegetation. The Diamantina Plains and Cooper Plains are characterised by floodplains. The Goneaway Tableland in the north of the bioregion comprises dissected low hills and tablelands. The Toko Plains in the northwest are characterised by low undulating ranges and sand plains. The Noccundra Slopes is the transitional area of tableland and undulating plains between the channel country and the mulga lands in the east.
The Channel Country bioregion lies within the Lake Eyre Basin and includes the catchments of the Cooper?s Creek, Diamantina, Bulloo and Georgina Rivers. Aquifers underlying the bioregion provide ground water supplies from the Great Artesian Basin. Mound springs within the Diamantina catchment are part of the Great Artesian Basin system. The Diamantina catchment contains a number of major wetlands.
For more detailed geological information and map refer to the Australian Geological Survey Organisation website: www.agso.gov.au/map/ and the Department of Mines and Energy, Queensland: www.dme.qld.gov.au/gsd/index.htm.
The Channel Country flood and alluvial plains include terminal swamps, claypans and lakes. The alluvial plains have a variety of soil types including shallow calcareous soil, sandy clay loams, clay loams and desert loams (Dawson 1984, Kerle, 1996, Mills 1980, and Turner et al 1993).
For further information on soils refer to Sattler & Williams (1999) and the Digital Atlas of Australian Soils at:
The provinces defined by Sattler & Williams (1999) show quite distinctive vegetation communities.
The Diamantina Plains supports forb and grasslands with sparse shrublands and woodlands.
The northern areas of the Cooper Plains support extensive hummock grassland, whereas the southern region has a mixture of shrublands and herbfields. The stony areas away from the flood plains support Mitchell grass (Astrebla spp.) grasslands and chenopod herbfields. Areas of gidgee (Acacia cambagei) shrublands occur on the low ranges with shrublands.
The tableland areas in the north have shallow soils that support Acacia shrublands with Mitchell grass (Astrebla spp.) grassland. The plains in the northwest support sparse shrubland on the low ranges with spinifex grassland on the sand or gravel plains. The Noccundra Slopes contains large areas of mulga (Acacia aneura) and other Acacia shrublands with open herb and grasslands on the flood plains.
The braided rivers are fringed by coolibah (Eucalyptus coolabah) woodland and lignum/saltbush (Muehlenbeckia florulenta. / Chenopodium spp.) shrublands (Boyland 1984, Nelder 1991 and Thackway & Cresswell, 1995).
For a list of rare and threatened flora and vegetation descriptions of the bioregion refer to Sattler & Williams (1999).
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 & Williams, 1999). For a list of the fauna surveys and rare and threatened fauna refer to Sattler & Williams (1999) and / or www.biodiversity.environment.gov.au/threaten/index.htm.
Several species are endemic to the region. The grey grass wren (Amytornis barbatus) is reported in the Diamantina and Cooper plains. 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 the Elizabeth Springs in the Diamantina catchment. Several snail species appear to be confined to the artesian springs in Queensland (Morton, et. al., 1995). For more details on fauna refer to 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) (Woinarski, et. al., in prep.).
The bioregion includes pastoral leasehold, nature reserves and vacant crown land. Within Queensland, NSW and Northern Territory the land tenure is almost entirely pastoral leasehold (Woinarski, et. al., in prep.).
Areas set aside for reserves and parks include the Innamincka Regional Reserve in South Australia, Diamantina National Park, Bladensburg National Park, and Goneaway Environmental Park, all in Queensland, and part of the Sturt National Park in New South Wales. The Innamincka area within South Australia has also been declared a State Heritage Area (Morton, et. al., 1995).
The dominant land use is cattle grazing. The floodplains are renown for its ability to put weight on cattle after a flood. The use of the Channel Country varies from breeding and finishing production systems to growing out for feedlot entry to just finishing for the premium Japanese ox market. Gasfields have also been developed in the Innamincka- Moomba region in South Australia. Tourism is important to the region.
Land degradation has resulted from over-grazing of cattle in some areas such as along some of the Cooper Creek frontage, dunefields, sandplains, riparian strips and mulga areas (Woinarski, et. al., in prep.). It is significant that many of the most devastating droughts in the area have followed periods of high stocking rates. Much of the damage mentioned previously has been due to delay in reducing stocking rates early in a drought phase. Artificial bores are believed to be reducing the water tables of the Artesian Basin, which is affecting natural springs (Morton, et. al., 1995). Tourism may impact in some areas such as degradation of riparian woodlands due to unregulated camping (Morton, et. al., 1995).
In the early 1960s, seismic lines in the Moomba gas fields created noticeable tracks and windrows causing extensive erosion. Current practices are less destructive and often not noticeable after a few rainfall events (Brandle, 1998).
There are widespread reports of grazing by rabbits, camels, pigs and goats. There are major threats with feral predators such as foxes and cats (Woinarski, et. al., in prep.).
Minor weed infestations in the Queensland portion of the bioregion include mimosa bush (Acacia farnesiana), parkinsonia (Parkinsonia aculeata), bathurst burr (Xanthium spinosum), noogoora burr (X. strumarium) (Woinarski, et. al., in prep.). Several small infestations of mesquite (Prosopis juliflora) are of concern in the NSW section of the bioregion.
In 1860, Robert O’Hara Burke, William Wills and 16 others sent out on an expedition to cross Australia to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The expedition passed through the channel country. The first settlers arrived in Birdsville in the early 1870s. Innamincka is a remote settlement on the Strzelecki Track in South Australia. Innamincka was built for drovers bringing cattle down the track from Queensland to the Adelaide markets. Both settlements were customs points for cattle crossing the state borders.
The Channel Country bioregion is sparely populated. The main centres include Birdsville (pop. 200), Bedourie, Windorah, Thargomindah, Tibooburra and Innamincka (pop. 130). Bitumen roads in the district are minimal. Birdsville is at the northern end of the Birdsville Track. The challenge of isolation is being increasingly overcome by the advances in technology with television, telephones, better roads and UHF radios meaning communication is much easier.
All or part of the Queensland local governments of Diamantina, Boulia, Winton, Longreach, Barcoo, Quilpie and Bulloo are included in the bioregion. Local governments do not exist within the bioregion outside of Queensland. The Channel Country bioregion lies with the Lake Eyre Basin. The Lake Eyre Basin Coordinating Group (LEBCG) is a community driven initiative to develop a strategic plan for a healthy Lake Eyre Basin system and sustainable natural resource management (LEBCG, 1999).
The bioregion is within the ATSIC regions of Port Augusta (SA), Aputula (NT), Bourke (NSW), Mount Isa and Roma (Qld) and their respective regional councils of Nulla Wimila Kutja (SA), Papunya (NT), Murdi Paaki (NSW), Mt Isa and Gulf and Goolburri (Qld) (McLennan, 1997).
The Innamincka-Moomba region in South Australia lies within Australia’s largest onshore hydrocarbon province. The sediments of the Cooper and Eromanga Basins provide the hydrocarbon source. Gas was first discovered in 1963; it was not until 1976 before Eromanga Basin was discovered. The hydrocarbon field supplies a significant proportion of South Australia’s energy as well as supplying Queensland and New South Wales (Brandle, 1998).
Boyland, D.E. 1984. Vegetation Survey of Queensland — South Western Queensland. Queensland Botany Bulletin No. 4. Department of primary Industries, Brisbane.
Brandle, R. 1998. A Biological Survey of the Stony Deserts South Australia 1994-1997. Department of Environment, Heritage and Aboriginal Affairs.
Connors G., Oliver B., & Woinarski, J. 1996, Bioregions in the Northern Territory: Conservation Values, Reservations Status and Information Gaps. Final report to ANCA National Reserves System Cooperative Program (Project N607), Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory, Palmerston, Northern Territory. (www.nt.gov.au/paw/fauna/bau/intro.htm.)
Dawson, N.M. 1974. Land systems. In: Western Arid Region Land Use Study — Part 1. Technical Bulletin No. 12, Division of Land Utilisation, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.
Horton, D. R. 1994, The Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia, Aboriginal Studies Press for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra, ACT.
Kerle, J.A. 1996, Bioregions of the Northern Territory. Draft report Conservation Commission of Northern Territory, Palmerston, Northern Territory.
Lake Eyre Basin Coordinating Group (LEBCG) 1999, In Our Hands: Building a Sustainable Future for the Communities and Environments of the Lake Eyre Basin, a draft strategic plan prepared for public consultation, Lake Eyre Basin Coordinating Group, Longreach, Queensland.
McLennan. W. 1997, 1994 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey: Social Atlas, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, ACT.
Mills, J.R. 1980. Land systems. In: Western Arid Region Land Use Study — Part 2. Technical Bulletin No. 22, Division of Land Utilisation, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane
Morton, S.R., Short, J., & Barker, R.D. with an Appendix by Griffin, G.F., & Pearce, G. 1995, Refugia for Biological Diversity in Arid and Semi-arid Australia, Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra, ACT.
Nelder, V.J. 1991. Vegetation Survey of Queensland — Central Western Queenslansd. Botany Bulletin No. 9. Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.
Sattler, P. & Williams, R. (eds.) 1999, The Conservation Status of Queensland’s Bioregional Ecosystems, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, Queensland.
Sattler, P. & Williams, R. (eds.) 1999, The Conservation Status of Queensland’s Bioregional Ecosystems, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, Queensland.
Thackway, R. & Cresswell I.D. 1995, An Interim Biogeographical Regionalisation for Australia: a Framework for Setting Priorities in the National Reserves System Cooperative Program, Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Canberra, ACT.
Turner, E.J., McDonald, W.J.F., Ahern, C.R. and Thomas, M.B. 1993. In: Western Arid Region Land Use Study — Part 5. Technical Bulletin No. 30, Division of Land Utilisation, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.
Walker, P.J. (comp.) 1991, Land Systems of New South Wales: Technical Report No. 25, Soil Conservation Service of NSW.
Woinarski J., Fensham, R., Whitehead, P. & Fisher, A., with map production by Verhagen, C. in preparation, Biodiversity in the Australian Rangelands: a Review of Changes in Status and Threatening Processes. Draft report prepared as a resource document for Project 3: Developing an Adaptive Framework for Monitoring Biodiversity in Australia’s Rangelands, of the National Land and Water Resources Audit, Theme 4 (Rangelands monitoring) by the Tropical Savannas Cooperative Research Centre, Darwin, Northern Territory.
Aboriginal languages of Australia:
Aboriginal Studies WWW Virtual Library:
Australian Landcare Council:
Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC):
Australian Geological Survey Organisation, Geology of Australia:
Bureau of Meteorology, Climate averages:
Bureau of Meteorology, Temperature and rainfall graphs: www.bom.gov.au/climate/forms/map_forms/new_imagemaps/qld_name.html
Bureau of Rural Sciences, Digital Atlas of Australian Soils:
Connors G., Oliver B., & Woinarski, J. 1996, Bioregions in the Northern Territory: Conservation Values, Reservations Status and Information Gaps. Final report to ANCA National Reserves System Cooperative Program (Project N607), Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory, Palmerston, Northern Territory:
Department of Mines and Energy, Queensland:
Department of Environment and Heritage, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) information including bioregional information:
Queensland Department of Natural Resources. ‘Long Paddock’:
Queensland Department of Natural Resources. ‘Silo’:
Queensland Department of Natural Resources. Patched Point Dataset and Data drill:
Queensland’s Environmental Protection Agency. National Park information, animal and plant species information including rare and threatened species:
Queenslands Parks and Wildlife Service:
Rural Lifestyles Queensland:
State-wide Land cover and Tree Study (SLATS) Vegetation cover and cover change information using Landsat Thematic Mapper ™ satellite imagery:
Tropical Savanna Co-operative Research Centre:
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