a field guide to the planet - by Damon Ramsey
The vast arid lands of Australia...
The 'deserts' of Australia are not just the rolling sand dunes people have in their mind when they think of that word. It includes the grasslands, shrublands and woodlands of the arid regions, where the erratic rainfall is less than the evaporation rates of that water, resulting in a deficit of moisture. As the world's driest continent, Australia obviously has a large portion of it's country defined as arid 'desert' ecosystems.
Unlike many other arid areas in the world, in Australia the rainfall is not always received in annual cycles, but often follows longer term non-annual events. There is a boom-and-bust pattern that occurs over many years, and can be unpredictable, with little rain for many years, and then a huge amount at once with subsequent flooding.
Much of the arid land of Australia is dominated by bunches of prickly grass called 'Spinifex'. Over long periods of time, weathering and oxidisation has resulted in distinctive bright orange-red soils...
There is one group that is very diverse in these arid habitats of Australia - lizards! In fact, there are claims that some of the dry habitats in Australia, such as the Spinifex grasslands, have the highest diversity of lizards in the world. However, this does not mean you will see lots of them; in the winter they may be scarce, and in the summer, they run fast and take shelter inside and under the prickly grasses.
Many of the dragons of the region seem to have annual cycles, only living for one year.
Ctenophorus caudicinctus, 'Western Ring-tail Dragon' (Millstream). Found in arid shrublands and sub-tropical woodlands of central west of Australia, mostly around Pilbara region.
Thinking of travelling again after everything settles down? The first expedition I am booked to work on after the virus is Micronesia, New Guinea & Indonesia in 2021 with Silversea. Meanwhile I am giving a lecture on the Sunshine Coast (Australia) on the "Sounds of suburban south-east Queensland"