Sturt Stony Desert


Gibber plains formed of closely packed angular or rounded pebbles and cobbles cover much of the Sturt Stony Desert. The pebbles and cobbles glisten in the sun, making the gibber plains a striking landscape. The Sturt Stony Desert also contains stony tablelands and jump-ups. Sparse acacia shrubland grows around the small drainage lines; larger ones are fringed with coolabah and river red gum woodland. The Sturt Stony Desert, along with the Strzelecki and Tirari deserts, forms the complex of desert country in north-eastern South Australia.

Geographical area

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


Sturt Stony Desert is part of the Channel Country bioregion. The climate of the bioregion is arid with very dry, hot summers and short, dry winters. Median annual rainfall (1890–2005) average over the bioregion is 168 mm.

Desert communities

Wangkumara and Yandruwandha

Flora and fauna

The gently undulating gibber plains of the Sturt Stony Desert support sparse shrublands of bladder saltbush (Atriplex vesicaria) and barley Mitchell grass (Astrebla pectinata). Modest rainfall triggers the germination of many short-lived plant species on the gibber plains. The scattered long red sand dunes are covered by sandhill cane-grass (Zygochloa paradoxa) and sandhill wattle (Acacia ligulata). Drainage depressions and swamps support swamp cane-grass (Eragrostis australasica) and lignum (Muehlenbeckia florulenta). Coolabah (Eucalyptus coolabah), river red gum Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and river cooba (Acacia stenophylla) fringe major drainage lines.

Kowari (Dasyuroides byrnei) are known only from the Sturt Stony Desert. A species of burrowing frog, the knife-footed frog (Cyclorana cultripes) is found within the gibber and gilgai areas of the desert.

Threatened species

Threatened and endemic species found within Sturt Stony desert include:

The Sturt Stony Desert may also provide habitat for Australian bustard (Aredeotis australis) and grey falcon (Falco hypoleucos).

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. The gibber plains of the Sturt Stony Desert are at lower risk of buffel grass invasion than other desert ecosystems but are still susceptible.

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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