The Simpson Desert
A fragile ecosystem by Caitlin Turner 5/6S PHPS
The Simpson Desert is uniquely located in the middle of 2 states and 1 territory: South Australia, Queensland and The Northern Territory . The Desert runs from Alice Springs towards South Australia and the environment is found in one of the driest regions in Australia. The majority of the desert is found in The Northern Territory with smaller portions crossing the South Australian and Queensland borders.
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People come to see the Simpson Desert because of it's natural beauty, unique features and traditional heritage. Some of the attractions which promote tourism for the area are the natural springs, ruins and carvings. One of the hazards experienced by tourism in the area is by people that come to see the desert who are unprepared for the heat. Tours were closed by the government once, in the summer of 2008-2009 when the temperature reached between 40 and 50 degrees Celsius. A lot of the things people come to see include Lake Eyre, Australia’s largest lake and the fifth largest terminal lake in the world, the rainbow valley with its beautiful landscape, the Ewaninga Rock carvings created by early indigenous inhabitants and chambers pillar a magnificent natural rock formation.
Simpson Desert Promo Video
Threats and Dangers
The Simpson Desert has a variety of threats to its fragile ecosystem. There is the threat of coal seam mining, the invasion of domestic animals and the human tourism impact.
The wilderness society advises that "mining and petroleum exploration has increased exponentially in recent years with three mining applications proposed for the Simpson Desert region. Coal was identified beneath the Simpson Desert many years ago; it is very deep and of a low grade. Today, some companies believe that coal can be harnessed by debatable methods including coal seam gas/ fracking and underground coal gasification. These technologies pose significant contamination risks to underground water resources."
Contaminated water would affect the fauna and flora of the area as well as the mining has the potential to significantly change the appearance of the landscape which would interfere with the fragile ecosystem. The solution for protecting this fragile ecosystem would be not to mine such a low grade coal source and invest in harnessing more renewable energy sources such as solar energy.
Another threat to the area is the invasion of domestic animals. The number of rabbits in the Simpson Desert had grown so large that they were eating all of the natural vegetation in the area which was resulting in the plants not having time to re-grow and native animals not having enough to eat.
In 1995 the government made the decision to deliberately infect the animals with the calici virus which was aimed at controlling the rabbit numbers. The virus killed the rabbits within two days and resulted in numbers falling dramatically allowing the native plants and animals time to recover.
FOUR WHEEL DRIVING
The biggest threat to the fragile ecosystem of the Simpson desert are humans! There are no serviced roads in the Simpson Desert making four wheel drives the preferred method of transportation. The vehicles do physical damage to the sand dunes and landscape with their tyre tracks. The exhaust fumes pollute the air and tourists impact the environment with camp fires and discarded rubbish.
Whilst permits are required to visit the area, the Simpson Desert is so large that rangers and authorities have difficulty supervising tourists to ensure that people are responsible and respectful for the fragile ecosystem.
The Simpson Desert is one of the few places in Australia where the Eucalyptus, or more commonly known Gum tree, is poorly represented.
The tallest sand dune is called Nappanerica or Big Red which is 40 metres high!
The Simpson Desert was named after Alfred Allen Simpson, an Australian philanthropist and geographer.
The largest portion of the desert, which lies in the Northern Territory, is now Aboriginal Land, and you need a permit to enter it.
In 1980, Bob Beer was the first man to run the 420km across the Simpson Desert. At the age of 38, the crossing took him six days to complete.
Despite the extreme heat during the day in the Simpson Desert it is not uncommon for temperatures to drop below freezing at night time.
Australia the time travellers guide a natural history of the Australian continent. By: Richard Smith.
Australian encyclopedia. By: William Collins