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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 32(1)

Camel usage and impacts at a permanent spring in central Australia: a case study

Jayne Brim-Box A F, Tracey Guest B, Peter Barker C, Mirjana Jambrecina B, Sean Moran D, Rene Kulitja E

A Wildlife Use, Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport, PO Box 1120, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia.
B Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park, Natural and Cultural Resources, Yulara, NT 0872, Australia.
C Greening Australia NT, Alice Springs, NT, Australia.
D Central Land Council, Mutitjulu, NT, Australia.
E Maruku Arts, CMA Ininti Store, Ayers Rock, NT, Australia.
F Corresponding author. Email: brimbox@gmail.com
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The impact of camel usage at a small rockhole (‘X’) on the Petermann Aboriginal Land Trust was evaluated from May 2007 through to July 2008. Camel usage and impacts were determined through multiple methods including ground cover, vegetation and macroinvertebrate surveys and through the use of surveillance cameras and depth loggers. Camels appear to use X most heavily in periods when rainfall is scant and more at night than during the day. However, in long periods with little or no rainfall, it appears that camels use X heavily during the day and night and there is little chance for X to re-fill. The low number of macroinvertebrates present during the study period suggests that the aquatic fauna is negatively impacted by the presence of camels, as was the vegetation surrounding X. Shrubs near X showed signs of heavy browsing and the ground cover became denuded of vegetation due to camel browsing and trampling during dry periods. This could lead to long-term alterations in drainage patterns and erosion of the site. Follow-up vegetation and ground cover surveys are needed to better assess these impacts. X was and is a traditional source of drinking water for people travelling through the country. Preliminary microbial analysis indicated that at certain periods X is not suitable for drinking, even if the water itself looks ‘clean’ or clear. The faecal contamination evident was most probably due to camel use of the waterhole. These results have been discussed with traditional owners, but further microbial analyses may be needed for longer-term assessments.

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