Central Australia is a land of extremes – from scorching summer days to winter nights where temperatures can fall well below zero and frost covers the ground. Rainfall patterns here are also extremely variable – from long dry periods of no rain at all, to flash floods that send frothing torrents along ordinarily dry river beds.
Central Australia has abundant plant and animal life. The area supports more than 50 species of native mammals (including bats and native mice, kangaroos and euros), numerous reptiles and abundant bird life (over 230 species).
Plants and animals here respond to the widely variable climate with a “boom or bust” approach. Years with good rainfall produce dense carpets of wildflowers and grasses, swirling flocks of budgies and zebra finches, and surges in numbers of insects and small mammals. Drier times cause animal populations to decline, occasionally to the point where only a few individuals of a species survive.
To learn more about the ecology of Central Australia visit the Alice Springs Desert Park website.
The region has been influenced by feral plant and animal species. Changes to the landscape and ecology have occurred due to the introduction of buffel grass and other weeds, predatory species (cats and foxes) and competitive herbivores (rabbits, cattle, horses and camels). These feral species as well as a change in burning patterns, have all contributed to the loss of biodiversity in Central Australia. Since the mid 1800’s when the first European explorers traversed the area, there have been 14 mammals extinctions (animals such as bettongs, numbats and bandicoots), and a large number of animals in the region are threatened or endangered.