Land systems

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

Flora of Charles Darwin Reserve

Charles Darwin Reserve lies within the Avon Wheatbelt bioregion and the South West Botanical Province, both known for their remarkable species richness. This area is recognised internationally as a 'hotspot' for biodiversity and an area needing urgent conservation action.

Plant species' diversity in this region is higher than in Australian tropical rainforests.

The South West Botanical Province covers only four per cent of Australia but 52 per cent of the nation's rare and threatened plant species occur there. On a global scale, the Province accounts for only 0.23 per cent of the earth's land surface but it supports 12.6 per cent of the world's rare and threatened flora.

Charles Darwin Reserve supports 12 vegetation associations. Some of the most significant are the 16,000 ha of York gum and mixed salmon gum and gimlet woodlands. With only six per cent of these vegetation types remaining and less than three per cent in conservation reserves, the purchase of Charles Darwin Reserve represents one of the last opportunities to protect them on a large scale.
Yellow sandplain shrublands, Melaleuca thickets, samphire flats, dune vegetation, mallee, mulga, and herbfields associated with granite outcrops provide the diversity of habitats to support an impressive list of plant and animal species.


The reserve is vegetated mostly with woodland and shrubland, and with samphire in the saltlake systems. Woodlands, an open forest of trees with a shrub understorey, have been extensively cleared for agriculture in Australia and are a priority for conservation under the Australian Government’s Natural Heritage Trust.

The woodland trees in the area are primarily eucalypts, predominantly York, salmon and gimlet with some native Callitris pine, which grow mainly on the heavier soils in the valleys or the rock ridges known as breakaways.

The shrublands are dense thickets of wattle, casuarina and melaleuca shrubs mainly on sandy and gravelly soils. These proved difficult to penetrate by the early explorers and pastoralists. The usually soft saltlake surfaces, either bare or vegetated with samphire, also slowed the movement of settlement into the area.

The vegetation correlates clearly with the major landforms and soils and has been mapped by John Beard using a classification primarily by vegetation structure, and in the 1988 Rangeland Survey report using plant species, soil and landform to define the Land Systems.


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