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Gibson Desert Ecosystem Investigation

Researching the impact of change on an Australian ecosystem

Tarla Frances Elward

on 16 September 2012

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Transcript of Gibson Desert Ecosystem Investigation

The Gibson Desert The Gibson Desert covers 155,000 sq km of Central Australian soil. It is located between Lake Disappointment and Lake Macdonald in Western Australia. In places, the topography can reach up to 500m. The climate is arid, with maximum temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius in summer, and in winter temperatures can drop to a minimum of 6 degrees. Rainfall in the Gibson averages 200-250mm a year. An abiotic component is a non-living part of an environment or ecosystem. e.g. rocks, soil, availability of water

The Gibson Desert is covered extensively by undulating sand dunes, laterised gravel plains and shrubby desert grasses (spinifex grass being the most common). The Gibson also contains salt lakes and various rock outcrops. In all ecosystems, availability of water is a crucial abiotic factor. Abiotic Components Biotic Components Flora and Fauna of the Gibson Desert The Gibson Desert Flora Acacia
Grevellia (Grevellia Banksii)
Desert Bloodwood
Triodia Basedowii (lobed spinifex)
Grass Plants local to the Gibson Desert region Coolibah Tree Acacia Grevellia (Grevellia Banksii) Fauna Animals native to the Gibson desert 18,900 square kilometers of the Gibson desert is protected by the Gibson Desert Nature Reserve.
Many other areas of the Gibson are also protected by Aboriginal and Conservation Reserves.
As a result, a vast majority of it is in almost pristine state. Red kangaroo (Macropus rufus)
Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)
Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis)
Bush Stone Curlew (Burhinus grallarius)
Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus)
Mulgara (Dasycercus cristicauda)
Major Mitchell's Cockatoo
Perentie (Varanus Giganteus)
Ampurta (Dasycercus hillieri)
The Karkarratul (Notoryctes caurinus) and theYitjarritjarri (Notoryctes typhlops) (Southern and Northern Marsupial Moles)
Black-flanked Rock-wallaby (Petrogale lateralis)
Dingo (Canis lupus dingo)
Bearded Dragon (Pogona viticeps)
Princess Parrot (Polytelis alexandrae)
As well as many species of snakes, spiders, insects and lizards Princess Parrot (Polytelis Alexandrae) Thorny Devil (Moloch Horridus) Perentie -the largest goanna in Australia(Varanus Giganteus) Recommendations for the Future A biotic component is a living organism in an environment or an ecosystem. These organisms interact with other organisms in the ecosystem as well as non-living components. How do they survive in their environment? Plants lose water through tiny openings in their leavs called stomata. To combat this loss in an already arid climate, many plants have small and/or thin leaves or have almost no leaves at all.
Other methods of preserving and protecting are:
A layer of fine hairs, wax or resin to further trap fluid.
Shiny surfaces to reflect light.
Shedding leaves and becoming 'dormant' during times of drought.

Most arid climate fauna have widespread roots that run deep into the soil in order to absorb more nutrients. Introduction:What is an Ecosystem? An ecosystem is a number of species interacting with each other and the abiotic factors in an area. Ecosystems also contain the habitats of the organisms, however large. How do they survive in their environment? Many small mammals and reptiles burrow deep underground (where the earth is cool and damp) during the day to avoid the hot sun and resulting dehydration.

Other species have adapted specifically to this climate. The one-in-a-million species, the Thorny Devil, cannot lose water through its skin. It takes in fluid though tiny grooves in its skin. These grooves absorb the water into capillaries that lead up to the mouth, and the Thorny Devil drinks it by swallowing, which pulls th water into its mouth like a straw. Birgit Bradtke, 2012, http://www.outback-australia-travel-secrets.com/thorny-devil.html, (14-09-12) As previously mentioned, the pristine state of the Gibson Desert is largely due to the protection that the Gibson Desert Nature reserve and other associations has provided. I recommend that this protection is maintained for years to come and even spread to the entirety of the Gibson Desert area.

Many of the other deserts in central Australia are suffering the consequences of land clearing and other pressing issues. As some of Australia's most cherished and endangered flora and fauna reside in those areas, it would be wise to extend conservation to the other areas.

To further support the wide variety of native animals, I also suggest setting up breeding programs for endangered and vulnerable species. This could potentially help save many animal species from declining further. Changes to the Ecosystem As over 60% of the Gibson is conserved or protected, mankind has had little to no effect on the area and as a result the land is in almost perfect condition.

One of the biggest problems affecting every ecosystem in the world (reserve or not) is climate change. The drastic increase in temperature may lead to the already sparse water sources drying up faster. Climate change also affects rainfall, causing it to become rarer and even more unpredictable. The graph on the right shows rainfall patterns in the Gibson Desert. As you can see rainfall is irregular. and periods with little rain extend for some time. Duncan Clark from The Guardian UK says that, "There's evidence to show that regions that are already wet are likely to get wetter, but details on how much wetter and what impacts there will be on a local scale are more difficult to ascertain. The dry regions of the subtropics are likely to get drier and will shift towards the poles." Interrelationships in the Gibson Desert From this basic Desert Food Web we can determine the primary predators (largely carnivorous), prey and producers (plants). The primary predators are the dingo and the wedge-tailed eagle. They prey on small mammals such as Bilbys, Mulgara and Ampurta, lizards, hares, small birds and snakes. Since these predators share the same food sources, they are competitors.

The main prey in the Gibson desert would be insects, as they are a vital food source for many of the species. Since they are a shared food source, many small mammals (such as the Mulgara and the Bilby) that eat insects would be classified as competitors.

Many species rely completely on another for their food, and do not eat plants. So if that species were to become endangered or extinct, the species that depended on it would follow after. Taking into consideration rarity of rainfall in a desert, this means a loss of essential nutrients that even flora and fauna adapted to arid climate may not be able to withstand. This could lead to a drastic downtrend in the population of less adapted plants and animals, which would create a chain reaction of species population declines that may eventually reach secondary or tertiary consumers.

There are a number of introduced species in the Gibson Desert region including feral pigs (Sus scrofa), foxes (Vulpes vulpes), rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), wild dogs (Canis spp.), feral cats (Felis cattus) and camels (Camelus dromedaries). The most pressing problem with introduced species is that they compete with and prey on native animals. Foxes and wild dogs share the same basic prey as dingos, and feral cats have recently become a serious problem in many parts of Australia. If Producers are of course, all plants. For the list of producers in the Gibson desert, please refer to the flora list under the heading 'Biotic Components'. These plants are depended on by insects, herbivorous birds, and some mammals, such as the Red Kangaroo and the Black-flanked Rock-wallaby. Gibson Desert Nature Reserve (Duncan Clark, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/dec/15/climate-change-rainfall, Accessed 17 September 2012) 2008,www.environment.gov.au/land/publications/acris/pubs/bioregion-gibson-desert.pdf (Accessed 14 September 2012) The Gibson Desert Nature Reserve is a protected area of 18, 900 square kilometers within the Gibson Desert. Construction work or mining of any sort is prohibited in this region. It is one of few Australian deserts that are protected.
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