Background and Overview
Australia’s deserts are some of the world’s most poorly understood landscapes.
Despite covering 18% of the mainland, our desert plants, animals, ecosystem processes, and their natural histories are under threat of being lost, before they are even found.
Since 2007 ADE has used modern scientific survey techniques, historical benchmarking and traditional knowledge to explore extensively through the most inaccessible and remote regions of central Australia.
We have produced indicative, historical and contemporary inventories of the ecology across a range of desert landscapes (e.g. dunefields, woodlands, river systems, stony ranges).
Our surveys have provided insights into the relative abundance and habitat association of species, as well as the distribution and extent of threatened species particularly in response to feral animals (cats and foxes), weeds, increased grazing pressures, as well as correlative climatic events (rainfall and fire) under varying land management regimes.
Using an innovative approach, in the tradition of early scientific exploration, our walking expeditions have been key to the discovery of a number of significant palaeontological and archaeological sites, offering insights into processes that have shaped these landscapes through deep time, as well as the transition from traditional aboriginal management practices to the present.
2023-2027 Survey Program
After a covid enforced break in 2020/21/22, we reactivated our survey program in 2023, however most unfortunately there was major and extensive flooding in the eastern Simpson Desert which prevented us from conducting any of our surveys as planned. Nevertheless, we were still able to conduct limited surveys on the eastern desert fringe including along the flooded Eyre Creek floodplain which was thriving with migratory birds following the floodwater. We also discovered bilby activity in an area that was over 40kms from the known bilby range and we will be following up that discovery in 2024.
In 2024 ADE will continue to build capacity toward our research programs.
This will include:
the collection, analysis, publication and dissemination of field data
building graduate employment opportunities
the development of an indigenous intern training program
as well as further expanding our current research partnerships within the public and private sectors
An overview of our research aims are as follows:
• the archaeology and ecology of water-remote mikiri (native wells)
• wildfire and prescribed burning implications for contemporary and historical hummock grassland ecology and management
• distribution, interaction and impacts of native and introduced mammalian predators
• assessment of ground-truthing methodology for the quantification of carbon sequestration and associated biodiversity of desert landscapes
• assessment of soil fertility and nutrient cycling across contiguous desert landscapes
• the use of track-plot methodology for the detection of desert faunal species
• avifauna responses across habitat gradients and ecotones of desert river systems
• spatial distribution, biogeography and management of fire-sensitive plant communities
• fungal associations of desert ecologies
• the palaeontology of the Lake Eyre Basin fluvial landscape
• discovery, retrieval, and documentation of the Kallakoopah Creek (SA) megafauna
• the comparative ecology of contiguous desert fauna and flora, including invertebrate and vertebrate pollinator networks
• the integration of traditional ecology knowledge and quantitative scientific methodologies
• use of drone technology for rapid habitat assessment
In addition, we will continue to provide field data directly to the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources and, to the Northern Territory Parks & Wildlife Commission.
The management of Australia’s arid landscapes are critical to the long-term social, economic and environmental sustainability of the nation.
According to current climatic modelling*, the resilience and functionality of Australia’s deserts will be under significant threat from extreme variability in patterns of both temperature, rainfall and intensified land use. Appropriate management, protection and conservation of Australia’s desert landscapes will only be achieved once their natural histories, status and threatening processes are better understood.
Over the 5 years ADE’s survey program, engagement, training and information gathering capacity will provide critical longitudinal data essential to the adaptive management and sustainability of Australia’s deserts, rangelands, regional communities and their people.