Forming part of our extensive Central Australia Transect 2014-17 in the iconic Simpson Desert, Project 138 is using the 138th meridian as the basis along which to examine the current status of desert flora and fauna.
Project 138 encompasses a broad research corridor stretching from approximately 65 kilometres north of the Warburton River near Lake Eyre to the Toko Range in Queensland. Commenced in June 2014, the program initially focused on the ephemeral drainage systems directly north of Lake Eyre, concentrating particularly on the Kallakoopah Creek in the Simpson Desert Regional Reserve.
The riparian vegetation associated with desert ephemeral drainage lines such as the Kallakoopah Creek are known to be important dry-period refuge sites to a range of arid-zone fauna. This includes important habitats for native birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, which are able to maintain populations in these areas during otherwise unfavourable conditions – conditions which are now prevailing in this part of the desert.
These ecological communities are also the most likely to harbor invasive and feral species. As such, loss of habitat to weeds and enhanced predation pressures make these areas critical sites for evaluation and (later) management.
Australian Desert Expeditions, through Project 138, conducted seven surveys in the southern Simpson Desert in 2014, including a comprehensive survey along approximately 55% of the Kallakoopah Creek and surrounding small inlets and salt lakes. By visiting previously unsurveyed areas of the desert we were able to determine the state and condition of a range of threatened species and ecosystems.
The 2015 surveys included two in conjunction with Bush Heritage Australia (on Cravens Peak and Ethabuka Reserves), a north to south transect in the Munga-Thirri National Park, and a survey that included Mount Gardner in the NT.
In 2016 we focused on the Queensland/Northern Territory section of Project 138, with surveys based in the Munga-Thirri National Park in Queensland and the area around Poeppel Corner in the Northern Territory.
The 2017 surveys stretch from the north-western Simpson, across to Poeppel Corner and into Queensland and the eastern desert fringe.
We are extending Project 138 into the winter of 2018
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