Gibson Desert


The Gibson Desert contains vast undulating sand plains, dunefields, plains of lateritic ‘buckshot’ (rusty-red iron oxide pebbles formed by surface weathering), and upland regions of sandstone. The Gibson desert contains few creeks, with most drainage lines buried in sand.

The sand plains and dune fields support shrublands of acacia, eremophila and grevillea and expanses of spinifex, while the buckshot plains contain scattered mulga and spinifex. Stands of desert oak are also present.

Almost 12% of the Gibson Desert bioregion is in reserves, including the Gibson Desert Nature Reserve to the north-west of Warburton. The Birriliburu Indigenous Protected Area stretches across the Little Sandy Desert and into the Gibson Desert.

Geographical area

The Gibson Desert Bioregion extends across 160,000 square kilometres of the central east rangelands of Western Australia.


The Gibson Desert has an arid climate with variable and unpredictable rainfall. Rain mostly falls in summer. The median annual rainfall (1890–2005) averaged across the entire bioregion is 163 mm.

Desert communities

Ngaanyatjarra lands; Warburton, Warakurna and Patjarr Kanpa, Patjarr and Tjirrkarli.

Flora and fauna

Much of the vegetation of the Gibson Desert is mulga and other mixed shrubs over spinifex. The red sand plains and dune fields support grasslands of soft spinifex (Triodia pungens) with an open overstorey of acacias, hakeas and grevilleas.

Similar vegetation is found on the lateritic uplands in the north of the Gibson Desert, but further south mulga (Acacia aneura) becomes the dominant overstorey species on uplands. The buckshot plains support mulga parkland (patchy mulga scrub) and hard spinifex (T. basedowii). Alluvial soils along buried drainage lines support coolabah (Eucalyptus vitrix) woodlands over bunch grasses.

Threatened species

The Gibson Desert bioregion supports five threatened animal species:

The Near Threatened (WA) brush-tailed mulgara (D. blythii) and Grey falcon (Falco hypoleucos) have also been recorded in the Gibson Desert.

Key threats

Introduced predators such as red foxes and feral cats have been a primary cause of the extinction of small- to medium-sized mammals across Australia’s arid inland. Along with wild dogs, they continue to pose significant threats to mammals, reptiles and ground-dwelling birds across all of Australia’s desert ecosystems.

Introduced herbivores such as camels, donkeys, horses and rabbits cause significant damage to desert ecosystems through overgrazing, particularly around water sources where they tend to congregate in dry times. Camels foul waterholes and have significant impacts upon fragile salt lake and freshwater ecosystems.

Invasive species in particular buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) poses the greatest threat to Australia’s desert ecosystems as it can quickly come to dominate the ground layer of vegetation. It burns hotter and more quickly than the native grasses it replaces. Buffel grass invasion in combination with larger and more intense wildfires driven by climate change have the potential to devastate the biodiversity of arid ecosystems.

Visiting the Gibson Desert

The southern sections of the Canning Stock Route run through the Gibson Desert.

The Ten Deserts of Australia

Australia’s ten deserts are globally significant arid lands with diverse habitats and significant natural features. The project area supports an exceptional range of animals and plants including numerous iconic threatened species (such as the bilby and rock wallaby).  Indigenous Australians have inhabited the desert country for thousands of years and continue to have strong cultural and spiritual connections to the desert. The deserts span 2.7 million km2 across five state and territory jurisdictions.


Great Victoria
Sturt Stony
Great Sandy
Little Sandy
  • Ten Deserts project area

Great Victoria Desert

The Great Victoria Desert (GVD) is the largest of Australia’s deserts, stretching from eastern Western Australia across the western half of South Australia, encompassing 420,000 square kilometres of land..

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Tirari Desert

The Tirari Desert forms the eastern edge of Lake Eyre and is partly located within the Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre National Park.

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Sturt Stony Desert

The Sturt Stony Desert covers 40,000 square kilometres of land in South Australia and Queensland between the Simpson and Strzelecki deserts

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Simpson Desert

The Simpson Desert is one of the world’s largest deserts of longitudinal dunes and extends across 180,000 square kilometres of land that straddles the border area Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia.

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Tanami Desert

The Tanami Desert covers 310,000 square kilometres, most of which lies in the Northern Territory. The western section of the Tanami lies in Western Australia between the Great Sandy Desert and the Kimberley

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Great Sandy Desert

The Great Sandy Desert (GSD) lies between the Kimberley and Pilbara regions in the north of Western Australia. It contains vast areas of red sand plains and dunefields, and extends across 390,000 square kilometres of Western Australia and the Northern Territory

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Little Sandy Desert

The Little Sandy Desert sits to the east of the Pilbara region and to the south of the western section of the Great Sandy Desert and covers 110,000 square kilometres of the central rangelands of Western Australia

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Gibson Desert

The Gibson Desert contains vast undulating sand plains, dunefields, plains of lateritic ‘buckshot’, and upland regions of sandstone. It extends across 160,000 square kilometres of the central east rangelands of Western Australia.

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Pedirka Desert

The Pedirka Desert is a small desert 100 km north-west of Oodnadatta consists of a gently undulating plain with parallel dunes of ‘fiery’ red sands surrounded by stony tablelands. It covers 1250 square kilometres of land straddling the Northern Territory/South Australian border.

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Strzelecki Desert

The Strzelecki Desert, together with the Sturt Stony and Tirari deserts, forms the complex of desert country in north-eastern South Australia and covers covers 110,000 square kilometres of land

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