Lake Eyre Basin (Environmental Region 8.4)
This region consists of 11 environmental associations. It occupies the north-eastern part of the province and is dominated by a vast expanse of red sand dunes and local concentrations of pans with cracking clay soils, many of which form parts of the Diamantina and Cooper Creek drainage systems. The dunes carry a mixture of tall shrublands of sandhill wattle (Acacia ligulata), needlebush (Hakea spp.) and whitewood (Atalaya hemiglauca), and hummock grasslands of sandhill canegrass (Zygochloa paradoxa) and hard spinifex (Triodia basedowii). The short-lived tufted kerosene grasses (Aristida contorta and A. browniana) are characteristic understory species, along with herbs and undershrubs such as a Calotis ernacea. The pans carry a wide range of vegetation communities which vary according to soil type, salinity and frequency of flooding. Canegrass (Eragrostis australasica), chenopod shrubs (Atriplex nummalaria and Chenopodium auricomum), lignum (Muehlenbeckia cunninghamii) and woodland communities with coolibah (E. microtheca), coolibah box (E. intertexta), red gum (E. camaldulensis) and the distinctive bean tree (Bauhinia carronii) all occur. The region also includes low stony tablelands such as Sturt's Stony Desert, with sparse low shrubs of native fuchsia (Eremophila app.) and dead finish and a series of salt lakes and pans along the southern margin with areas of samphire (Arthrocnemum spp. and Frankenia spp.) and nitrebush (Nitaria schoberi). Perspective and detailed views occur in the interdune corridors, and from the higher dunes there are limited panoramic views. Fringing woodlands are local features, and some vantage points from the stony tablelands in the far north-east (8.4.3 and 8.4.5) provide panoramic views over the dunes and pans. The climate is hot in summer and cool to cold in winter, with extremely low and unreliable rainfall and very high evaporation throughout the year. Mean annual rainfall ranges from about 125 mm in the west to 150 mm in the north. Temperatures show considerable diurnal and seasonal variation. Mean monthly evaporation reaches 575 mm in summer and falls to 110 mm in winter at Moomba in the east. Mean annual evaporation ranges from 3100 mm in the south to 4000 mm in the north-west.