Little Desert National Park


Little Desert National Park

Infobox_protected_area_of_Australia | name = Little Desert National Park
iucn_category = II



caption =
locator_x = 195
locator_y = 194
nearest_town_or_city = Dimboola
coordinates = coord|36|36|24|S|141|11|19|E|type:landmark_region:AU
area = 1326.47 km²
established = 1968
visitation_num =
visitation_year =
managing_authorities = Parks Victoria
official_site = [http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/1park_display.cfm?park=132 Little Desert National Park]
The Little Desert is a national park in Victoria, Australia), 375 kilometres west of Melbourne. It extends from the Wimmera River in the east to near Naracoorte over the South Australian border in the west.

The vegetation of the park ranges from pure mallee heathland in the Eastern Block to cypress pine and casuarina woodlands in the moister Western Block. In the Western Block, there are large areas of seasonal swampland formed over claypans. Laterites are scattered throughout the sandy areas of the park and characterised by broombush. The most famous animal in the park is the unusual mallee fowl, the only mound-building bird to live in an arid region, and there is also the solitary insectivorous southern scrub robin ("Drymodes brunneophygia"). Brush-tailed possums and grey kangaroos are common throughout the park, and in the lizards can be observed basking in the sun.

It was established in the late 1960s after the state government announced an intention to sell uncommitted Crown Land for agriculture. The area in question held a great deal of relatively undisturbed mallee bushland, and was rich in wildflowers and fauna, including a number of threatened species.

The Little Desert receives an annual rainfall of about 480 millimetres (19 inches), though there is a gradient from 400 millimetres (16 inches) in the east to 600 millimetres (23.5 inches) near Naracoorte. This is about the same as the dry farming country surrounding the park, but the Little Desert has very deep sandy soils, which are much lower in essential nutrients than the ("only moderately fertile") clay soils used for agriculture. These sandy soils have extraordinarily low contents of available nutrients and hold water very poorly, reducing the availability of water to plants. Thus, farming of the area proved quite impossible until deficiencies of zinc, copper and molybdenum were identified in the 1940s.

Even after fertilizers containing these elements became available, studies made by the Victorian government during the 1950s and 1960s showed that the Little Desert was not capable of becoming productive farmland and would fetch only low prices if cleared for agriculture. Local opposition to selling the land for farming was intense, and quickly gathered support around Victoria. The Bolte Government was unmoved by environmental concerns, but was eventually persuaded to retain the area as a nature reserve by economics: the estimated return from the growing business of ecotourism outweighed the meagre amount to be gained by selling off low-value marginal farmland.

Over time, the Little Desert became a national park, beginning in 1968 with the eastern third and completed in 1986 with the addition of two more blocks to the west, thus covering all the sandy areas up to the South Australian border.

The Little Desert National Park is divided into three sections:

* Western Block
* Central Block
* Eastern Block

Roads within the park are only accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles and most tracks in the Central and Western Blocks are closed from 1 June to 31 October or after wet weather because four-wheel-drives can damage the extraordinarily fragile ecosystems under wet conditions. Organised tours are available to the Eastern Block - the oldest and most accessible part of the park - from Melbourne and Dimboola, the nearest town in Victoria.

ee also

* Protected areas of Victoria (Australia)


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