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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 14(2)

Mound Springs: South Australian Conservation Initiatives.

CR Harris

The Rangeland Journal 14(2) 157 - 173
Published: 1992


The mound springs of inland Australia are of outstanding scientific and cultural importance. Natural outlets for the waters of the Great Artesian Basin, they are found mostly on or near its margins. The most numerous and active are in the far north of South Australia. Parts of westem Queensland still have active springs, but almost all in north-westem New South Wales are now extinct, presumably because of aquifer draw-down in the wake of bore sinking. As permanent sources of potable water in a desert environment they have been a focus for human activity over many years. Aboriginal occupation has been documented to at least 5000 years BP and almost all the springs are rich in archaeological material and mythological associations. Since European settlement they have been of strategic importance in exploration and in the location of pastoral stations, the Overland Telegraph and the old Ghan narrow gauge railway from Marree to Oodnadatta. Biologically, they represent unusually specialised aquatic habitats, the discontinuity being analogous to islands and the isolation just as great for species with limited dispersal abilities. The result is an assemblage of plants and animals of evolutionary, biogeographic and ecological interest, with many endemic and relict species. Heavily degraded by aquifer draw-down and over a century of pastoralism, the springs were given little attention until relatively recently. In the past decade two key areas have been acquired for the national parks system and ten important springs on pastoral country outside of the parks have been fenced. Important research has also been carried out, with a particular focus on the endemic elements of the invertebrate fauna. These are positive achievements, but the remoteness of the localities where the springs occur presents a continuing difficulty for on-going conservation and management programs.

Full text doi:10.1071/RJ9920157

© ARS 1992

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