Lake Eyre Basin Catchment Story
The catchment stories present a story using real maps that can be interrogated, zoomed in and moved to explore the area in more detail. They are used to take users through multiple maps, images and videos to provide engaging, in-depth information.
Lake Eyre Basin Catchment Story – Overview
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This map journal is part of a series prepared for the catchments of Queensland.
We would like to respectfully acknowledge the First Nations of the land on which this project takes place, and Elders both past and present. We also recognise those whose ongoing effort to protect and promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures will leave a lasting legacy for future Elders and leaders.
Main image: Thomson River channel country, provided by Gary Cranitch, © Qld.Museum.
Table of contents
Thomson River Channel Country - provided by Gary Cranitch, © Qld.Museum.
How to view this map journal
This map journal is best viewed in Chrome or Firefox, not Explorer.
Use the tabs across the top to explore different map journals for the Lake Eyre Basin catchments in Queensland. This map journal is an overview for the Lake Eyre Basin in Queensland.
The information for these map journals was gathered using the ‘walking the landscape’* process, where experts systematically worked through a catchment landscape in a facilitated workshop, to incorporate diverse knowledge on the landscape components and processes, both natural and human. It is focused on water flows and the key factors that affect water movement.
Main image - View of Cooper Creek, Windorah, South West Queensland, provided by Gary Cranitch, © Qld.Museum.
*Walking the Landscape—A Whole-of-system Framework for Understanding and Mapping Environmental Processes and Values (Department of Environment and Heritage Protection 2012) - see links at the end of this map journal for further information.
The Lake Eyre Basin is the largest internal drainage system in Australia and one of the biggest in the world. It also has one of the most variable flow regimes in the world. Making up approximately 30% of the State of Queensland, the Lake Eyre basin in Queensland covers an area over 510,000km² with extensive waterways and wetlands.
The Lake Eyre Basin (click for animation) includes large parts of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory. The headwaters for the Georgina, Diamantina and Cooper start in Queensland and all systems flow into Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre.
See the 2019 filling of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre in this MODIS satellite animation*.
The Lake Eyre Basin overlies large areas of the Great Artesian Basin, with the Eromanga sedimentary basin underlying most of the Lake Eyre Basin. The largest artesian aquifer in the world, the Great Artesian Basin provides essential water resources to spring ecosystems as well as to the communities and industries in the Lake Eyre Basin.
The Queensland Lake Eyre Basin is surrounded by the Nicholson River, Leichhardt River and Flinders River basins to the north, the Burdekin to the east and the Bulloo and Warrego to the south east. The Hay River is located to the west of the Georgina River catchment.
The basins of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre are unique in that they include large, arid to semi-arid landscapes whose flora and fauna are adapted to a highly variable climate - featuring long dry periods to major flooding. Known for the cycles of 'boom and bust', the basins of the Cooper, Diamantina and Georgina support abundant ecosystems and an important grazing and pastoralism industry.
Main image - Wilson River in flood, provided by Gary Cranitch, © Qld.Museum.
*Contains modified MODIS data (2020) processed by Sentinel Hub, using the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). This rendering results in changes in vegetation response (displayed by darker green which equals more 'green' vegetation). This method uses visible and near-infrared sunlight reflected by the plants to calculate live green vegetation.
Values of the catchment — economic and social
The areas of the Cooper, Diamantina and Georgina catchments contain parts of 14 local councils.
The Lake Eyre Basin has a large grazing and pastoralism industry supported by naturally occurring vast grassland areas which become lush and long lasting pasture induced by floods. Well managed grazing practices, in line with current climate variations, contribute to success.
Stock feed is mostly on native vegetation which is grown without tillage, fertiliser or irrigation, on large properties, some covering vast areas of floodplain. This contributes to a major organic beef industry.
Rain and flood events contribute to pasture growth from localised flooding, ponding, and rains boosting the soil moisture. Temperature (time of year) and length of time the floodplains are inundated are also factors that influence pasture growth. Significant floods can result in higher pasture growth which can result in higher stocking rates of cattle.
Budda pea grove on Eyre Creek, provided by R. Jaensch, Wetlands International
Pasture species in the Lake Eyre Basin are adapted to ephemeral rainfall. There is a high diversity of ephemeral species of forbs and grasses. Nutritional value is retained, and at times the pastures are nutritionally better when dry. Spinifex plants make up the major pasture species in low-fertility areas.
The grazing and pastoral industries rely on infrastructure such as roads, fences, yards, bores and homesteads. There are approximately 12,000 kilometres of primary, secondary and inactive stock routes within the Lake Eyre catchments. Movement of stock through stock routes can be a cost effective way to keep cattle fed when pasture is lacking, by moving stock out of dry, grazed areas to areas with more nutrition. This can improve resilience of pasture during dry periods.
The Lake Eyre Basin has a well-established tourism sector. The outback theme attracts tourists and 'grey nomads' along the Matilda Highway, the Simpson Desert and driving routes to Lake Eyre via Birdsville and other regional centres. Tourism is seasonal with most occurring in the cooler months and in response to major flooding events to see normally dry lakes, wetlands and channels full and abundant in wildlife.
Other features such as The Stockman's Hall of Fame, Blackall Woolscour, Australian Workers Heritage Centre, the Qantas Founders Museum, Waltzing Matilda Centre and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs are other attractions for the tourism sector.
There are also large areas dedicated to nature conservation - covering various landscapes such as Mung-Thirri National Park in the Simpson Desert, and the Idalia National park, with dense mulga woodlands. Diamantina National Park is a large National Park which includes important wetlands that support breeding populations of resident and migratory birds.
Other nature conservation areas include Astrebla Downs National Park, Goneaway National Park and Bladensburg National Park in the Diamantina, and White Mountains National Park, Moorrinya National Park, Lochern National Park and Welford National Park in the Cooper.
There are several wetlands under the Directory of Important Wetlands in the Lake Eyre basin.
Government services and Defence also provide employment and support for regional centres such as Longreach and Winton.
Main image - cattle grazing around a waterhole, Photo provided by Queensland Reconstruction Authority
Natural features — geology and soils
The Lake Eyre Basin is a highly weathered and ancient landscape. It has very low topographic relief. The basin extends over large areas and climate zones, from the northern monsoon tropics to temperate zones in the south. The waterways have a very low gradient, and generally run from the north and east to the south and west. Approximately 70% of the basin is below 250m AHD (Australian Height Datum).
Between 65 to 250 million years ago much of inland Australia was under water. Over time the inland sea evaporated, exposing this landscape to a variety of processes, both depositional and weathering, occurring mostly in the Late Palaeocene to Middle Palaeocene. Water driven and aeolian (wind) deposits, and a drying climate, have changed the Lake Eyre Basin from a predominately wet environment to the arid conditions of today.
A. nummularia swale swamp on Lower Titheropatchie - provided by R. Jaensch, Wetlands International
Aeolian dunes cover much of the basin, as well as silicrete tablelands, gibber plains, rocky areas and wide alluvial floodplains.
There are many jump ups or Cainozoic duricrusts - which are formed on a variety of rock types, usually forming mesas or scarps.
Several different rock types combine to make up the geology of the Lake Eyre Basin in Queensland.
To the north, the geology of the Georgina catchment includes the rugged mountains of the Mount Isa Inlier, comprising some of the oldest rocks and most mineral rich areas in Queensland.
The remaining areas are mostly sedimentary rocks, bounded by slightly uplifted areas such as the Desert Uplands and Carnarvon Ranges. Sediments deposited over time have been weathered to form heavy clay (vertic) soils and sands.
There are a variety of soil types which, in general are susceptible to poor water retention, low fertility, low organic matter reserves and low water penetration. They are prone to compaction, hardsetting, crusting, and wind/water borne erosion. There are high natural stores of salt within the lower reaches of river basins with evapoconcentration leading to salt lakes, the only export mechanism being via wind transport.
Cracking clay by the Thomson River - provided by Gary Cranitch, © Qld.Museum.
The main surface soil type associated with floodplains and wetlands is self-mulching grey cracking clays. These grey sediments are a characteristic feature of floodplain deposition. Large areas of Mitchell Grass country sits on these soils.
Known locally as black soils, they respond dramatically to water. Black soils absorb a lot of moisture, and when they dry rapidly, their volume reduces dramatically, leading to the formation of deep cracks. During times of flow and flooding, the soils absorb water with little runoff when they swell shut. They can retain moisture for extended periods.
Surrounding much of the floodplain, especially in the Cooper catchment, the soils are distinctly orange-red to orange-brown. This harder and rockier country needs little rainfall to trigger runoff. Surface sediments are pebbles and cobbles of silcrete and iron-rich duricrust, and orange-red to orange brown silty sand or sandy silt. Streams in these areas have fast flows.
Other landforms include dunefields and gibber plains. The extremely fine clay soils contribute to turbidity observed in watercourses throughout the Lake Eyre catchments.
The extensive floodplains of the Lake Eyre catchments contain a series of braided channels. The floodplain and channels can be very wide, sometimes up to thirty kilometres across.
Main image, Lark Quarry Conservation Park, © Tourism and Events Qld
Linked image, "floodplain" Diamantina River in flood - provided by Gary Cranitch, © Qld.Museum
Natural features — bioregions and vegetation
There are seven bioregions within the basin.
The entire bioregion of the Channel Country is contained in these three basins (including parts in the Northern Territory and South Australia). The bioregion contains vast braided floodplains, surrounded by gravel or gibber plains, dunefields and low ranges and jump-ups. Vegetation is predominantly Mitchell grass, gidgee and spinifex.
Large areas of Mitchell Grass Downs also make up the three basins. Dominated by Mitchell tussock grasslands, the bioregion is largely treeless plains, with occasional ridges.
To the east, the Desert Uplands are characterised by sandstone ranges and sand plains. The vegetation is thicker than that of other bioregions in the basin, with eucalypt woodlands, acacia woodlands with some spinifex understorey.
Mulga Lands contain undulating plains with mulga and eucalypt woodlands. This bioregion also extends into the Warrego River basin of the Murray Darling Basin.
There is a small patch of Einasleigh Uplands in the northern parts of the Cooper which is dominated by eucalypt woodlands. These areas contain a range of landscapes including rugged hills and plateaus, as well as alluvial and sand plains.
The Northwest Highlands/Mount Isa Inlier bioregion, in the north of the Georgina catchment, is characterised by rugged hills, mountain ranges and undulating valleys. The vegetation is dominated by low open woodland over spinifex hummock grasslands.
Parts of the Brigalow Belt south bioregion feature in the Barcoo River catchment.
Main image - Subsiding floodwaters, Noccundra, South Western Queensland, provided by Gary Cranitch, © Qld.Museum.
Natural features — vegetation
Vegetation affects how water flows through the catchment, and this process is also affected by land use and management practices.
Native vegetation slows water, retaining it longer in the landscape and recharging groundwater aquifers. It also reduces the erosion potential and the loss of soil from the catchment.
The Lake Eyre Basin is characterised by long lived perennial plants, including saltbush shrublands, to floodplain eucalypts, such as river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and dense lignum (Duma florulenta) that persists during extended dry periods. Grasses also dominate large areas of the channel country with Mitchell grass (Astrebla spp.), spinifex grass (Triodia spp.), and Mulga woodlands (Acacia aneura), to the dry Simpson/Strzelecki Dunefields. The channels are fringed by coolibah, and river red gum.
Vegetation in the Lake Eyre Basin must tolerate clay based soils and flooding to persist in these catchments and the shrink-swell behaviour of the cracking clay soils are hostile to the roots of many plants (e.g. coolibah), so the terrestrial ecosystems they support are specialised.
After floods vast fields of pea-bush (Sesbania spp.) and budda pea (Aeschynomene indica), some up to three metres tall, emerge across wetter zones of the floodplain. Tall channel millet (Echinochloa turneriana) is highly valuable to graziers and wildlife. Floods in cooler months may produce extensive Cooper clover which is also especially valued pasture. These two plants are key to the cattle industry in the Channel Country after floods.
Increasing tree and shrub cover, and thickening of species such as gidgee in the Mitchell Grass Downs and eucalypts in open forest reduces ground cover and can alter flows and increase runoff.
Introduced buffel grass proliferates in cleared areas that do not flood. Gidgee (Acacia cambagei) proliferates in areas which hold water such as floodout areas and around culverts. Prickly acacia (Acacia Vachellia), is a thorny shrub/small tree that forms dense thickets. Prickly acacia has infested large areas of Mitchell Grass Downs from Barcaldine west to Longreach, Winton and Julia Creek. Prickly acacia it can contribute to soil degradation by increasing and facilitating erosion, as well as outcompeting perennial grass species.
Linked photo, River red gum: Flooded creek, Noccundra, South Western Queensland, provided by Gary Cranitch, © Qld.Museum.
Linked photo, Dense Lignum: Lines of Lignum in the Diamantina - R. Jaensch, Wetlands International
Linked photo, Cracking clay: Dry and cracked mud bank of Cooper Creek, Windorah, provided by Gary Cranitch, © Qld.Museum.
Linked photo, coolibah: dunes with lignum and coolibah - R. Jaensch, Wetlands International
Main photo, Diamantina National Park, Image provided by Peter Lehmann © Qld Govt
Natural values — watercourses, wetlands and waterholes
The basins of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre have one of the most variable flow regimes in the world. Natural areas such as wetlands, channels and waterholes become vital areas of the landscapes for flora and fauna to persist, in both wet and dry periods. Despite long hot and dry conditions, the channels and waterholes in the Lake Eyre Basin provide habitat for a diverse array of flora and fauna.
The variability results in what has been termed a ‘boom and bust’ ecology. When water flows, previously isolated species can be reconnected through passive (drift) and active dispersal, with explosions of fish, water birds and other aquatic life. When dry, many water connections are lost. However, some refuges still remain, such as in-channel waterholes that retain water for longer and support remaining fish and other aquatic life.
Some animals aestivate (similar to hibernating, however in hot climates) to survive during dry periods. Dry channels can also act as egg banks for aquatic invertebrates as they depend on the dry periods in their life cycle (desiccation as a process). Other species of algae and plants are adapted to survive extended hot and dry periods and will repopulate extensively once waters return. Floodwaters induce rapid growth of algae, which becomes a food source for fish that allows large fish breeding events to take place.
Fish species such as the endemic Cooper Creek catfish (Neosiluroides cooperensis) and Barcoo grunter (Scortum barcoo), persist in these rivers because there are a network of connected, persistent, refuge waterholes. The waterholes are maintained by the flow regimes of the rivers which scour these deeper sections of channel during floods and so keep them from filling in with silt and losing their function. This dramatic boom and bust ecology continues due to the natural flow regimes and relatively undeveloped floodplains and catchments of Lake Eyre Basin.
Main image - Pelican colony in Lake Galilee - R. Jaensch, Wetlands International
Linked image - channels and waterholes - Variable flow at Glenmurken waterhole, Windorah, provided by QLD Government
Natural values — wetlands and waterbirds
Thousands of hectares of wetlands in the Lake Eyre Basin are filled by water which floods during episodic rainfall events. After a flood, these wetlands form a string of lakes, floodouts and swamp networks that retain water for long periods. These processes make the catchments of Lake Eyre basin one of the most important areas for waterbirds in Australia.
There are few comparable areas and river systems in Australia, let alone in arid zones. Over 80 species of waterbirds, including 17 migratory species have been recorded using the wetlands of the Lake Eyre basin catchments.
Large populations of fish and aquatic macrophytes appear after floods. After drying periods, where the floods subside and small 'islands' are exposed, waterbirds have an opportunity to breed which is facilitated by abundant food resources brought on by floods and boom periods.
There are 24 wetlands recognised as having national importance in the three basins. These wetlands are of high biological significance, contain unique values and support high numbers of migratory shorebirds.
Lake Yamma Yamma is a large wetland which fills to capacity about once every 25 to 30 years and supports internationally recognised populations of plumed whistling-ducks, sharp-tailed sandpipers, and Australian pelicans. This Sentinel-2_L1C satellite animation* shows how Lake Yamma Yamma fills (true colour imagery).
Lake Buchanan, a terminal saline lake, supports large numbers of non-breeding waterbirds including migratory shorebirds and a number of endemic species, such as Buchanan's fairy shrimp (Branchinella buchananensis).
Lake Galilee supports a range of colonial nesting waterbird species of up to 10,000 pelicans and also supports large populations of nonbreeding birds. Lake Galilee is internally draining, intermittent and has unique water chemistry.
Main image - Heron & Cormorant colony in the Cooper Creek catchment - R. Jaensch, Wetlands International
*Contains modified Sentinel-2_L1C data (2020) processed by Sentinel Hub, using True Colour. This rendering illustrates water flow using true colouring of the landscape from the satellite.
The Lake Eyre Basin is known for its variable flow regimes, and variable rainfall patterns. It is one of the largest basins in the world with relatively unregulated flows.
Streams in the upper parts of the catchments tend to be fast flowing with higher rainfall. Further down the flat and eroded landscape, the streams slow down, split and braid across vast floodplains. Heavy soils reduce leakage in waterholes across all three catchments. Water in flood can spread more than thirty kilometres across.
Flooding is dependent on many factors. The same area may flood differently depending on the event. Factors such as event location, duration, previous events, soil moisture and vegetation presence and condition can all have influence.
See the MODIS satellite animation* for an example of the marked difference in flood behaviour between two events in the Upper Georgina.
Four main flooding types are recognised by the communities living in these catchments.*
Channel flood: The main channels run, and floods frequently-flooded alluvial plains. Some depressions, waterholes and swamps may fill. Floodwaters just break the banks of the channels, inundating less than 5% of the floodplain.
Gutter flood: Shallow channels, called gutters, spread the floodwater inundating 5-15% of the floodplain. See the MODIS satellite animation* which briefly illustrates a gutter flood in the tributaries of the Barcoo subcatchment.
Handy flood: Floodwaters escape the 'gutters' and connect up to form large sheets of water. Water covers the alluvial plains, generally fills depressions, waterholes and swamps and starts to reach occasionally flooded, flat plains, with 50-60% of the floodplain inundated.
Good flood: Floodwaters connect across large areas, floodwaters flow straight over the top of channels and gutters. Water covers the alluvial plains and floods occasionally flooded flat plains. Covers a high proportion of the floodplain - 80-100% is inundated. See the MODIS satellite animation** of a good flood in 2019, where the Georgina, Diamantina and parts of the Cooper catchments all flow. The catchments then have a large increase in vegetation, which is visible in the animation from the satellite.
Smaller floods prime the catchments for future flooding. As water spreads, temporary vegetation can establish, slowing the next flood pulse, with benefits for graziers. Smaller and more frequent flooding can be just as important as larger floods.
High evaporation rates are experienced in the Lake Eyre catchments which can impact on the persistence of waterholes and how long lakes, floodouts and swamps remain wet.
In the systems of the Lake Eyre Basin, small changes in elevation in an otherwise flat landscape can have big influences over flood behaviour. See the MODIS satellite animation** for 'Diamantina Gates', in the lower reaches of the Diamantina catchment for an example of the impact during times of flood.
The lower parts of each catchment - Cooper Creek, Diamantina and Georgina, experience what are sometimes called ‘dry floods’. This is when the local area experiences a flood, with no local rain, as large volumes of floodwater move down the catchment from rainfall events upstream. Flooding is vital for the economy in these areas.
Main image - Diamantina floodplain, provided by Gary Cranitch, © Qld.Museum.
Linked image, Channel flood - provided by David Phelps
Linked image, Gutter flood - provided by Gary Cranitch, © Qld.Museum.
Linked image, Handy flood - provided by David Phelps
Linked image, Good flood - provided by Gary Cranitch, © Qld.Museum.
*Channel country flood descriptions, based on the definition in Sustainable Grazing in the Channel Country Floodplain, by Meat and Livestock Australia Ltd, 2007
**Contains modified MODIS data (2020) processed by Sentinel Hub, using the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). This rendering illustrates water flow (large amounts are white in colour) and the resultant change in vegetation response (darker green = more 'green' vegetation). This method uses visible and near-infrared sunlight reflected by the plants to calculate live green vegetation.
Groundwater in the Lake Eyre Basin
Shallow groundwater, that is, groundwater from regional aquifers (excluding the Great Artesian Basin (GAB)) in the Lake Eyre Basin interact with surface water in different ways in different areas.
Water can percolate down from rainfall or streamflow into regional aquifers and these aquifers can also supply baseflow to watercourses, terrestrial vegetation or wetlands.
Groundwater can vary in its connection with surface water from highly connected, intermittently, to minimal or no interaction.
Exclusion zones - little to no groundwater infiltration. Provided by QLD Government.
Fractured rock aquifers - intermittent groundwater infiltration and storage. Provided by QLD Government.
Due to the large area covered by the Lake Eyre basin, the regional groundwater interaction is quite varied across the area and is highly dependent on geology, soils and rainfall (or flooding).
To the north east, permeable fractured rock aquifers of fine and medium grained sandstone have fluctuating and intermittent groundwater connectivity.
The majority of regional groundwater interaction and regional aquifer activity in the Lake Eyre basin, aside from alluvial channels, is through shallow sedimentary aquifers. There is little or no infiltration in exclusion zones as water usually quickly runs off these areas.
The remainder of shallow groundwater interaction includes alluvial aquifers, permeable sandy plain aquifers and inland sand dunefield aquifers.
Alluvial aquifers in these catchments are characterised by brackish, ephemeral groundwater connectivity.
Groundwater persistence and interaction with the surface is dependent on recent rainfall and/or flooding. Many wetlands are associated with these aquifers. Lake Moonda and other lakes in the far south of the Diamantina catchment are on quaternary alluvial aquifers with saline groundwater connectivity.
Wind-blown inland sand dunefields - intermediate or regional groundwater flow systems. Provided by QLD Government.
Lake Yamma Yamma is on a closed freshwater alluvial system. Lake Buchanan and Lake Galilee is also on a closed alluvial system, and can be brackish.
The Great Artesian Basin
See the animation on the Hydrology of the Great Artesian Basin - transcript provided below. This animation was developed using data from the GAB Atlas, from Geoscience Australia.*
Hydrology of the Great Artesian Basin transcript:
The Great Artesian Basin is Australia’s largest groundwater aquifer, holding 65 million gigalitres of water.
A spiritually significant water source for First Nations people, it is critical to the survival of more than 80 regional Queensland towns.
We need to continue to manage this resource well, to ensure it survives into the future.
Usage and reliance
About 315,000 megalitres of groundwater is extracted from the Great Artesian Basin in Queensland every year to supply livestock, agriculture, mining, tourism, towns and households.
Many unique ecosystems, with species found nowhere else, depend on its spring waters. Without it, they would perish in an arid environment.
Between 65 to 200 million years ago, inland Australia was at times, underwater, and coarse and fine grained sediments settled into permeable and impermeable layers called aquifers and aquitards.
Groundwater is confined within the aquifers by the impermeable aquitards.
Location and boundaries
The Great Artesian Basin is made up of several sedimentary basins.
The Eromanga Basin underlies most of the Lake Eyre Basin catchments in Queensland.
Reliance on recharge zones and zone locations
Water enters the basin aquifers generally through intake beds along the Great Dividing Range and eastern Carpentaria, and takes thousands of years to flow west under great pressure.
Geological structure impacts on water flow
Geological faults can disrupt the flow of water through the aquifer.
Water table and pressure
Groundwater generally flows from high to low elevation due to gravity, and from high to low pressure due to hydrostatic forces.
Bores and springs
When groundwater pressure is high enough, water can flow freely to the surface, through artificial bores and naturally occurring fractures.
Impact of extraction
High rates of water extraction can cause groundwater pressure to drop. This can impact groundwater accessibility and reduce water flows from artesian springs to surrounding ecosystems.
The key to reliability
To maintain and restore reliable artesian pressure, we have already significantly controlled artificial outflows, minimised the use of open bore-drains, and repaired degraded bore infrastructure, but continued good management, sustainable water use and research must continue.
The importance of knowledge and research
With the growing importance of this water source to the region, we must continue to improve our understanding of the hydrology and groundwater flow dynamics of the Great Artesian Basin.
With collaborative approach to research, modelling, mapping decision making and management of its use, we can look after this valuable resource and ensure reliable groundwater for the region, well into our future.
Call to action
To find out more, visit: wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au
*© Commonwealth of Australia (Geoscience Australia) 2020. This product is released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode
Values of springs
Springs have played a major role throughout history and contain significant cultural, environmental and ecological values.
Springs have been valued for healing properties and cared and preserved by First Nations people for thousands of years. Springs in the Lake Eyre basin also played a critical role in European exploration and settlement.
Springs in the Lake Eyre Basin* provide habitat for a number of endemic plants, fish, snails and invertebrates. Processes that contribute to endemic and rare species to persist in arid and variable conditions include permanent/near permanent water levels, unique water chemistry, age and isolation. Despite the shallow habitat, the groundwater maintains the springs at a constant depth and size.
Edgbaston Goby (Chlamydogobius squamigenus) in the Pelican Springs complex - Photo by Water Planning Ecology, QLD Government
Fish species endemic to springs in the Barcaldine spring supergroup include the red-finned blue-eye (Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis), and Edgbaston goby (Chlamydogobius squamigenus).
Hydrobiidae aquatic snails - Photo by Water Planning Ecology, QLD Government
At least 15 species of molluscs/gastropods are endemic to the Barcaldine springs supergroup.
Scalds left by discharge springs have specialised non-aquatic flora that are adapted to the sodic and salty conditions, such as Gunniopsis sp. undescribed dioecious Sclerolaena; Trianthema sp. and undescribed Calocephalus sp.
Close up of a salt scald (Pelican Creek Springs) - Provided by Water Planning Ecology, QLD Government
Main image, Spring in Elizabeth Springs complex - Provided by Water Planning Ecology, QLD Government
*Springs include artesian and non-artesian springs.
Last updated: 24 September 2020
This page should be cited as:
Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2020) Lake Eyre Basin Catchment Story – Overview, WetlandInfo website, accessed 27 October 2023. Available at: https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/ecology/processes-systems/water/catchment-stories/transcript-lake-eyre-basin/overview.html