Little Sandy Desert


The Little Sandy Desert (LSD) sits to the east of the Pilbara region and to the south of the western section of the Great Sandy Desert. The LSD comprises red dune-fields with abrupt outcrops of sandstone. The sandy soils of the dunes support spinifex grassland with acacias and grevilleas. The creeks that run from the low sandstone ranges are fringed with river red gums.

The Birriliburu IPA stretches across the LSD and into the Gibson Desert. About 4.6% of the Little Sandy Desert bioregion is within the conservation estate.

Geographical area

The LSD covers 110,000 square kilometres of the central rangelands of Western Australia.


The climate of the LSD is arid with summer-dominant rainfall. As with all Australian deserts, rainfall is highly variable and unpredictable. The median annual rainfall (1890–2005) averaged across the entire LSD is 178 mm.

Desert communities

Martu lands; Parngurr and Punmu communities.

Flora and fauna

The sandy soils of the LSD support hummock grasslands of feathertop spinifex (T. schinzii) with a scattered overstorey of acacias and grevilleas, including umbrella bush (Acacia ligulata) and Grevillea stenobotrya. Scattered desert bloodwoods (Corymbia chippendalei) are found on sand hills. On the stony hills and where lateritic gravel is exposed, hard spinifex (T. basedowii) is dominant. Coolibah (Eucalyptus vitrix) and river red gum (E. camadulensis) are found in areas with freshwater, such as creek lines emerging from the sandstone ranges. Scattered woodlands of desert oak (Allocasuarina decaisneana) and mulga (Acacia aneura) are also present. Over 550 plant taxa have been recorded in the southern LSD, including 16 species of conservation significance.

103 bird species have been recorded in the Birrilburu IPA, and 116 within the greater area. Notable species include Australian bustard (Aredeotis australis) and bush stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius); and possibly striated grasswrens (Amytornis striatus).

Threatened species

The LSD supports one threatened plant species and six threatened animal species, including:

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 Little Sandy Desert

The central sections of the Canning Stock Route run through the Little Sandy 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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