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.
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.
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 and endemic species found within Sturt Stony desert include:
- Pickard’s wattle (Acacia pickardii)
- Kowari (Dasyuroides byrnei)
- Fawn hopping-mouse (Notomys cervinus)
- Ashy Downs skink (Ctenotus astarte)
- Plains wanderer (Pedionomus torquatus)
The Sturt Stony Desert may also provide habitat for Australian bustard (Aredeotis australis) and grey falcon (Falco hypoleucos).
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.