The Pilbara shrublands ecoregion, in the extreme west of Australia are classified as a deserts and shrublands biome; the conservation status of this land is Vulnerable. The region took its name after the Pilbara Gold Field, which was discovered by miners in the year 1885.
Location and General Description
The Pilbara shrublands are situated in a desolate western region of Australia. Considered a biome of deserts and xeric shrublands, the Pilbara ecoregion spans an area of about 69,400 square miles. Its red earth surface is underlain by rich oil, natural gas and iron ore deposits. The ecoregion is not a designated G200 area.
The dominant plantlife of the Pilbara consists of acacia trees and shrubs, as well as drought-resistant Triodia spinifex grasses. Several species of acacia (wattle) trees are classified as endemic to the Pilbara region, and are thus the focus of conservation programs, along with wildflowers and other local flora specialties. The Pilbara is known for its broad variety of endemic species adapted to this harsh arid environment, including dozens of species of stygofauna, microscopic invertebrates which live underground in the groundwater of the region. The Pilbara olive python, the Western Pebble-mound Mouse, and the Pilbara Ningaui of the Hamersley Range are among the numerous animal species within the fragile ecosystems of this desert ecoregion. Birds include the Australian Hobby, Nankeen kestrel, Spotted Harrier, Mulga Parrot, budgerigars, and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos.
Hamersley Range National Park, Western Australia Photograph by Mike Fields
This ecoregion is classified as Vulnerable.
Types and Severity of Threats
The Pilbara shrublands ecoregion faces threats from the mineral and petroleum extraction industries, as well as infrastructure development to support those activities. Detailed analyses of these threat levels has not been investigated.
Justification of Ecoregion Delineation
The Pilbara Shrublands Ecoregion includes the ‘Pilbara’ IBRA, comprising the large Pilbara Craton, which contains the mountainous Hamersley region, the Fortescue Plains, and the Chicester and Roebourne regions. Acacia and Triodia species are common (Thackway and Cresswell 1995).
- Thackway, R. and I. D. Cresswell. editors. 1995. An Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia: a framework for establishing the national system of reserves, Version 4.0. Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Canberra.
- Royal Commission probes British nuclear tests in Australia. New Scientist (1419): 6. 30 August 1984.
Much of the core material of this article was prepared by Angas Hopkins for the World Wildlife Fund.