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All About the Great Victoria Desert

All About the Great Victoria Desert 7
Mulga, Acacia aneura, and Spinifex, Triodia sp, Great Victoria Desert, Western Australia, Australia. (Photo by: Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Are you curious about the largest dune desert in Australia? Are you not aware of the vegetation and biodiversity of the Great Victoria desert? Keep reading.

Great Victoria Desert: Location

Great Victoria Desert
Spinifex and mulga, Triodia sp, Acacia sp, Great Victoria Desert, Western Australia, Australia.

The Great Victoria Desert was named by Ernest Giles after a British queen, in the year 1875.

It is the largest dune desert present in Australia, covering a total area of 350,000 square kilometers. The Great Victoria Desert covers the Western and South Australia from west to east, stretching a range of 700 kilometers.  This desert is surrounded by the Nullarbor Plain in the south, Western Australian Mallee scrubs in the west, Tirai and Sturt’s stony desert in the east, and the Gibson desert in the northern area of the desert.

Great Victoria Desert: Climate of the Great Victoria Desert

Desert
Gidgee wattle (Acacia cambagei), also called Stinking wattle as when wet its phyllodes stink, Lake Miranda, Great Victoria Desert, Western Australia.

1. Precipitation

The Great Victoria desert receives rainfall of about 200 – 250 mm, annually. Only the southern part of the Great Victoria desert receives the precipitation of the winter season. The only water source of the northern part of the Great Victoria Desert is the occasional thunderstorms.

2. Altitude

The altitude of the Great Victoria desert is about 1,070 feet higher than the sea level.

3. Temperature

During the summers, the temperature of the Great Victoria desert reaches from 90 degrees F to 105 degrees F, which is 32 degrees and 41 degrees in Celsius. During the winter season, the temperature of the Great Victoria desert ranges from 68 degrees F to 77 degrees F, which is 20 degrees and 25 degrees in Celsius.

Great Victoria Desert: The Type of Vegetation We See in the Great Victoria Desert

1. Eucalyptus Youngiana

Flower
The flower of Eucalyptus Youngiana
Flower
The woody ‘gumnuts’ of Eucalyptus Youngiana after the flower falls off

Eucalyptus Youngiana is widely known as Ooldea Mallee or Large – fruited Mallee. The maximum length of this tree is 11 meters. The main feature of Eucalyptus Youngiana is the large flowers that it bears, which blooms from late winter to early summer. The flowers can be 75 mm in diameter. The colors of these flowers are red, yellow, or cream. After the flowers fall off, it leaves woody ‘gumnuts.’

2. Marble Gum Tree

Tree
The Marble Gum tree in the Great Victoria Desert
Fruit
The marble looking flower of the Marble Gum tree

The Marble Gum tree is one of the known features of the Great Victoria Desert. This tree is only found in a few specific areas of the desert. There are two reasons behind the term ‘marble gum’; first, the rounded fruits of this tree, which looks like a marble, and second, the trunk, creates a marbled appearance on the tree.

3. Acacia

Flower
Flowery acacias along the seashore, US Virgin Islands, United States of America.
Tree
An elephant bull walk along an Acacia tree line with his trunk raised as he heads for a nearby marsh on World Elephant Day at the Amboseli National Park.

This shrub can reach up to a height of 20 feet and extend itself up-to hundreds of miles in a thin band. The golden-colored flower of Acacia blooms during spring.

4. Emu Bush

Shrub
The Emu Bush shrub and its red tubular flower

This shrub can reach up to 1-2 meters in height, and it grows 3 meters wide. This shrub is sticky in every form, even stickier if it’s young. The red tubular flower of this shrub blooms from spring to fall and tastes a lot like honey.

5. Sturt’s Desert Pea

Flower
Sturt’s Desert Pea (Swainsona Formosa), Western Australia.

This flower is reasonably easy to recognize because of its blood-red color. In the middle, there is a bumpy section, which is rarely white and generally black; It can withstand severe temperature. The taproot of this flowering plant helps to find water deep under the ground.

6. Fleshy Groundsel

Flower

This flowering plant grows up to 10 – 30 cm tall. Flowering in Fleshy Groundsel occurs in late winter to early spring. If the land receives a fair amount of rainfall, it turns into a sea of these yellow flowers.

Great Victoria Desert: 5 Common Creatures Found in the Great Victoria Desert

1. Rock Wallabies

Kangaroo
A Wallaby sits on the rocks at Simpson’s Gap, West Macdonnell Mountain Range, Australia.

Rock Wallabies are almost on edge to get extinct. These beautiful animals reside on jagged cliffs and edgy outcrop. There are sixteen species of rock wallabies, and being a part of the marsupial family, hence they often get confused with a kangaroo.

2. Parrots

Parrot
A princess parrot poses at the EMU Australia Celebrity Children’s event at Sydney Wild Life Zoo on April 15, 2014, in Sydney, Australia.

Another familiar creature found in the Great Victoria Desert is the parrot. The two most common parrots found in the Great Victoria desert are scarlet chested and princess parrot.

3. Snake

Snake
The 23-inch snake in the aquarium next to a 50cent piece. A cleaner found a Bandy Bandy snake at the Rooftop Motel.

The most common snake found in the Great Victoria Desert is the Bandy Bandy snake. They rarely come out from the ground; they mostly do it at night. Their general length is 60 CM.

4. Camels

Camel
Feral camels, Camelus dromedarius, on a dune. Near Boulia, central-west Queensland, Australia.

Just like most of the deserts, camel is another common animal of the Great Victoria desert. Camels are mostly found in South – Asian country India, so the camels reside in the Great Victoria desert are feral camels.

5. Bilbies

Animal
A nocturnal male ‘Bilby’ rests on the leg of keeper Kate Blount at Sydney Wildlife World.

Bilbies look basically like a mouse with rabbit ears. They eat bulbs, insects, and fruit. Bilbies are part of the marsupial family, and they do have similar legs like kangaroos, but instead of hopping, they tend to gallop.

Great Victoria Desert: Biodiversity and Conservation

The bio-region of the desert is contained with lunettes, dunes, rocky lands, and playa lakes. The vegetation comprises acacia shrubs, woodlands, mallee shrubs, and more. The animals rarely seen in the desert are sandhill dunnart, southern marsupial mole, and malleefowl. The major threats for biodiversity are the overgrazing of feral animals, deforestation, developments of exploration, and mining.

Let’s see a few species and how we can keep them from getting extinct.

1. Australian Bustard (Ardeotis Australis)

Bird
Australian bustards, Ardeotis australis, at the waterhole, Sturt National Park, far western New South Wales, Australia.
  • Features – The maximum possible height of Bustard can be one meter tall. The wingspan can be up to 2.3 meters. They are ground-dwelling and heavy-bodied birds. Male bustards weigh up to 5 – 10 kgs, whereas female birds weigh up to 2 – 3 kgs.
  • Diet – These birds are omnivorous; they feed upon insects, small birds, mice, lizards, and fruits.
  • Habitat – They live on grasslands, open woodlands, and dry plains.
Bird
An endangered species… the Bustard pictured at Taronga Zoo. A breeding plan is undertaken to restore the large number of the birds which once occupied vast areas of NSW. October 20, 1983.
  • Breeding – They breed once in a year by utilizing the ‘lek’ mating system. Around the months from September and November, eggs are laid in the appropriate hollow ground from where the female can protect her eggs, staying camouflaged. Females incubate two and rarely three eggs for 24 days. Males do not play any role after mating.
  • Conservation – Illegal hunting, predators like cats, foxes, and overgrazing of feral animals, is a significant threat. We can help them by keeping their wildlife wild and by behaving like a responsible pet owner, keep them inside the house at night and avoid their visit to national parks.

2. Malleefowl (Leipoa Ocellata) 

Bird
A four-day-old mallee fowl fitted with a tiny radio transmitter shows only a thin aerial. March 19, 1987.
  • Features – They are timid, ground-dwelling creatures, and their size is as much as of a domestic chicken. Malleefowl is Australia’s largest megapodes and commonly known as mound builders.
  • Diet – Malleefowl feeds upon seeds, flowers, fruits, tubers, fungi, herbs, and invertebrates.
  • Breeding – They usually mate with the same partner for the rest of their lives, and they tend to spend most of their time together. The incubation gets done in mounds created by them. The heat effect they get is from the sand, which gets warm by the sun. They lay eggs when the temperature of the nest reaches up to 33 degrees Celsius. They lay eggs every five to seven days until the summer ends. They can lay 30 eggs in one season. The male malleefowl helps by checking the temperature of the mound with their tongue.
Bird
Mallee Fowl…..Dr. David Priddel, Research Officer with National Parks and wildlife, holds/releases a 4-day old mallee fowl fitted with a tiny radio transmitter on the Yathong Nature Reserve.
  • Habitat – Malleefowls are mainly found in mallee woodlands, which are not recently burnt.
  • Conservation – You can easily conserve these species by being a responsible pet owner, do not let your pets go outside at night and avoid taking them to national parks and join groups to take care of Malleefowls and their preservation.

3. River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis)

Tree
RED RIVER GUM (EUCALYPTUS CAMALDULENSIS), FLINDERS RANGES NATIONAL PARK, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, AUSTRALIA.
  • Features – River Red Gums are large and single-stemmed trees. This tree can grow up to 45 meters tall. It can live up to 500 to 1000 years. It has two subspecies of Northern and Southern.
  • Reproduction – A forest of river red gums can produce more than 250 million seeds per year. Most of the seeds get spoiled by and ants and insects. The rest of the seed germinates at the right time.
Tree
RED RIVER GUM (EUCALYPTUS CAMALDULENSIS), FLINDERS RANGES NATIONAL PARK, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, AUSTRALIA.
  • Habitat – These trees grow close to wetlands, specifically near river plains. Along the lower flood plains often river red gums are the only trees creating open forest; This is one of the two reasons of the name of the tree, and the other is because of the red color of the timber.
  • Conservation – We could help conserving river red gum trees only by finding out more about river Murray and how it is so significant for Australia; by involving ourselves on client projects and by keeping control over the usage of water at home, we can conserve the river red gums and create better biodiversity for the Great Victoria desert.

4. Slender-billed Thornbill (Western)
(Acanthiza iredalei iredalei)

Bird
Yellow-rumped thornbill (Acanthiza chrysorrhoa), with insect prey in beak. Leschenault Inlet, Western Australia.
  • Features – The western species of this bird is about 10 cm in length. It has a wingspan of 14 – 15 cm. They weigh around 5 – 6 grams. They have olive-grey and olive-brown colors embracing their feathers. The other two species, eastern and St. Vincent Gulf, are also found in South Australia.
  • Habitat – Slender-billed Thornbills reside in arid and sub – arid regions of Southern and Western Australia. They prefer habitats like shrublands, salt lakes, or salt flats, and rarely near mangrove regions. They generally choose chenopod shrublands ruled by Samphire, Bluebush, or Saltbush.
  • Diet – Slender-billed thornbills feed upon spiders, insects, and occasionally on stems, leaves of some plants, and centipedes.
Bird
Brown thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla), perched in a tree. Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia.
  • Breeding – The breeding season of slender-billed thornbills occurs from July to October, generally the following rainfall. The female thornbill lays a clutch of three to four eggs. When the eggs hatch, the offsprings are fed by both male and female thornbill, but more by the female.
  • Conservation – You can help conserve the slender-billed thornbill (western) by just spreading the word and awareness of Slender-billed Thornbills; you can also help them by adding yourself to land conservative projects and groups.

5. Southern Marsupial Mole (Notoryctes typhlops)

Mole
Southern Marsupial mole came out from the ground in the morning
  • Features – Southern Marsupial Mole’s skins are covered with silky, dense, and cream-colored fur. They have vestigial eyes, no external ear openings, scooping claws, and more that help them to live underground. They can grow up to 16 cm long and weigh between 40 to 70 g with a tail of length 2.6 m.
  • Diet – They mainly feed upon invertebrates larvae, geckoes, and insects. Since they receive adequate moisture from their food, they do not search for water.
Animal
Southern Marsupial mole swims through the desert of sands.
  • Habitat – Southern Marsupial Moles are found in Central Australia’s Sandy desert regions. They are also known as ‘blind sand borrowers.’ Their habitats also include dunes, river flats, and sandy plains.
  • Conservation – Take care of your pets and spread awareness of these little creatures.

Let us know in the comment section if you have any fascinating facts about THE GREAT VICTORIA DESERT.

What do you think?

Written by Nandini Goswami

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