Land systems

Land systems: an Australian 'invention'
Botanical history
Mulga-Eucalypt line

Land systems of Charles Darwin Reserve

Charles Darwin Reserve is on the geographical junction of four ecological bioregions. Originally there was some difficulty in differentiating between ‘new’ land systems from the Avon bioregion at their north-eastern extremities, with systems originally described and classified towards the opposite ends of the Gascoyne-Murchison or the North Eastern Goldfields. The variation and gradual changes extend over hundreds of kilometres. It means that these Avon systems can have some quite different landform elements and biota as they approach and penetrate beyond the mulga-eucalypt line.

The land systems of Whitewells Station, Mt Gibson, Ninghan and Wanarra Stations were mapped in 1992 and 1993 as part of the survey of the Sandstone - Yalgoo - Paynes Find pastoral area by the Department of Agriculture in collaboration with the Department of Land Administration (formerly Lands and Surveys).

Despite many challenges, the published maps in the surveys were compiled from combining detailed observations on the ground with interpretation of air photos and satellite remote sensing, and geological and botanical maps. The data from the survey were computerised and the maps made available in digital form for use in modern Geographic Information Systems.

The basic map now used in the management of Charles Darwin Reserve is the one produced by the departments of Agriculture and Land Administration following the regional survey of Yalgoo, Paynes Find and Sandstone in the 1990s. Each individual land system is numbered, coloured and keyed in a group with similar systems according to a broad classification system of land and vegetation types.


The Joseph Land System

The Joseph Land System was mapped along the Mulga-Eucalypt line, the northern edge of the south-west vegetation, in the early 1990s by the rangeland survey team. It was named after St Joseph Well on Charles Darwin Reserve (Whitewells Station) although the well itself is on the edge of a breakaway in the Euchre Land System. Further south, in the Wheatbelt, where it is commonly known as ‘wodjil’ or ‘light country’ it has been extensively cleared for wheat cropping.


Project & Site Code: Sandstone/Yalgoo/Paynes Find rangeland survey: SYP I169. Date: 23-11-1992
Land System: Joseph Land System
Land Unit: Sand sheet or plain
Station: White Wells
Location: MGA Zone: 50 492970 mE 6729472 mN
1:250,000 Map sheet: Perenjori
Location notes: Approximately 4 km west north-west of White Wells homestead
Surface and Hydrological Properties:
Physical soil surface properties: soft
Surface Crusting: 60% Lichen (abundant)
Veg unit: SCMSX - Sandplain close mixed shrubland
Notes: Yellow sandplain shrubland dominated by Acacia and Melaleuca shrubs

Species List
Tall Shrubs: Melaleuca uncinata
Medium Shrubs: (Strata rank 1) Acacia sp.
Low Shrubs: (Strata rank 2) Acacia sp.
Perennial Grasses: (Strata rank 3) Amphipogon strictus
Other species: Acacia sp., Amphipogon strictus, Dianella revoluta, Eriostemon deserti, Eriostemon thryptomenoides, Hakea minyma, Hakea scoparia, Hibbertia enervia, Melaleuca uncinata, Prostanthera sp., Wehlia thryptomenoides

Current Soil Classification
WA Soil Group: Yellow deep sand
Australian Soil Classification: Arenic Rudosol (deep sand grading to sandy loam)

Soil Profile Description


Depth (cm)




brown (10YR 4/3) loamy medium sand; very weak consistence, non-sticky, non-plastic; apedal, single grain structure; sandy fabric; very few sub-angular quartz coarse fragments ; non-dispersing, non-calcareous; pH 6; abrupt boundary to:



yellowish brown (10YR 5/6) loamy medium sand; very weak consistence, non-sticky, non-plastic; apedal, single grain structure; sandy fabric; pH 5.5; sharp boundary to:



strong brown (7.5YR 5/6) medium sandy loam; very weak consistence, non-sticky non-plastic; apedal, single grain structure; sandy fabric; 20% gravel; pH 5.5.

We had a very big fire down here in the 60s, and after that, a couple of years after that, there was an absolute mass of wildflowers, all things that come up probably after hundrds of years you know. The wildflowers gradually fade out, the damn scrub takes over. Denis Mason, 4 October 2003, interview by C.Nicholson

Survey of Whitewells’ land systems 1992-93

The survey team were ecologists (Hugh Pringle and Andy Chapman), botanist (Sandra van Vreeswyck), surveyor (Ken Leighton), senior agricultural adviser (Alan Payne), soils expert (Peter Hennig) and support staff. They used a ‘traverse and site sampling’ technique on every lease in the region. They used remote sensing technology and the station tracks where possible, to gain access to each type of land system and each part of the lease. They sampled the various types of country and assessed their condition, determining whether they were stable, eroding or showed evidence of changes or losses to the perennial vegetation.

I have a story about White Wells during the rangeland survey. The lessee was annoyed at me for calling his sandplain country ‘sand plain’ - he likes to refer to it as 'light country' as in marginal agricultural land !! I told him it was not marginal agricultural land, and it was not even marginal pastoral land. He told the others I should be put in a pair of concrete boots and thrown down the nearest well! Sandra van Vreeswyck 2006



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