6 Developing the desert potential effects on wildlife 65 The desert channels environment This region occupies the north-eastern part of the Lake Eyre Basin in central and western Queensland, and covers over 500 000 km2 (Dickman 2010). It incorporates parts of seven bioregions, including large tracts of the Channel Country and the Mitchell grass downs, as well as the desert uplands and Simpson–Strzelecki dunefields on the eastern and western boundaries, respectively (Desert Channels Queensland Inc. 2004). The desert channels environment stretches across the catchments of Cooper Creek and the Diamantina and Georgina Rivers (Fig. 6.1), which rise in the north and flow in a southerly direction towards Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre. Rainfall is higher in the north of the region (e.g. annual average for Camooweal = 398.7 mm) than in the south (e.g. 166.9 mm/year at Birdsville and 291.5 mm/year at Windorah), but very heavy rainfalls sometimes punctuate the usually arid conditions (Bureau of Meteorology 2014). Annual rainfalls of ~1000 mm have occurred at both Camooweal and Windorah and more than 540 mm at Birdsville (Bureau of Meteorology 2014) these types of events result in both local filling of river channels and downstream surges that can produce floods covering many thousands of square kilometres (Desert Channels Queensland Inc. 2004). The frequency and magnitude of these extreme rainfall events have increased over the last 100 years, a trend that may continue with climate change (Greenville et al. 2012). Fig. 6.1. These dunes and channels across the Simpson Desert are part of the desert channels environment, including the Channel Country of Cooper Creek and Georgina–Diamantina Rivers, Mitchell grass downs, desert uplands and Simpson–Strezlecki dunefields. This vast area is biologically highly productive, driven by boom and bust cycles of rainfall and flooding, and it provides habitats for many terrestrial mammals (photo, R. T. Kingsford).
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