Transforming rains

Published 21 Jun 2014 

After one of the driest years on record for many of our rangeland reserves, some were fortunate to receive late summer rainfall.

Holy cross frog at Naree Station ReserveCrucifix frog at Naree Station Reserve. Photo by Victoria Schladetsch.

At Naree Station in western New South Wales only 140mm rain fell in 2013 and the land was crying out for water after a very hot summer. Much welcomed rain storms through February and March 2014 brought more rain in a month than had been seen all the previous year, triggering a burst of new life in the woodlands and wetlands.

The landscape responded at breakneck speed, as many plants and animals rushed to complete their life cycles before the dry conditions again took hold.

Ants of many kinds, sensing the change, built fascinating structures in the sandy red mulga country. One of the most spectacular discoveries was these large ant chimneys, which appeared after the first rainfall, only to dissolve back into the landscape with the following storms.

Ant chimneys at Naree. Photo by Sue Akers.Ant chimneys at Naree. Photo by Sue Akers.

At Cravens Peak and Ethabuka, on the edge of the Simpson Desert in Queensland, the explosion of life after their first significant autumn falls of the year was quite unreal. Aquatic creatures like shield shrimp (whose tiny eggs persist for years through dry periods) and frogs appeared in the water‑logged flats within a day.

The Mulligan and Georgina Rivers both ran over the access roads for quite some time. These flows found their way down the catchment and helped fill Pulchera waterhole on Ethabuka.

Meanwhile, after a very dry 2013, Charles Darwin Reserve in Western Australia's northern wheat belt received its best rains in some time – around 60mm – over the Anzac Day long weekend.

of the clay plans and samphire systems around the reserve were filled and amongst the york gum woodlands there was water pooling and seeping into the soil profile.

These rains will give a much needed reprieve to the native plants and animals that have struggled through the hot, dry summer, as well as fuelling the explosion of wildflowers that the region is renowned for each spring.