Gibson Desert

Content Cover Image

Gibson Desert, Western Australia Photograph by

The Gibson Desert is an ecoregion in Western Australia, which is in the Deserts and Xeric Shrublands biome classification. The land area covered by this ecoregion amounts to 60,200 square miles. A number of mammals, birds and reptiles occur within the Gibson Desert ecoregion, including five taxa iclassified as threatened. Most of the human population within the Gibson Desert are aboriginal peoples.

The Gibson Desert Nature Reserve represents a protected area of the Gibson Desert. This isolated 18,900 square kilometre site is seldomly entered by those from outside the region; the reserve is administered by the Kalgoorlie regional office within Western Australia's Department of Environment and Conservation. The landscape of this nature preserve includes sand seas and plains, stony mesaform hills and undulating lateriteA soil type rich in aluminum and iron, found in wet tropical zones plains. The predominant vegetation consists of grasses of the genus Spinifex, although holding some low shrubs and trees.

Location and General Description

caption Gibson Desert (in yellow) regional context. Source: World Wildlife Fund


The Gibson Desert sits upon the central east Sweden Plateau between Lake McDonald and the saline Lake Disappointment along the Tropic of Capricorn; this ecoregion lies south of the Great Sandy Desert, east of the Little Sandy Desert and north of the Great Victoria Desert.

Spurce: Protected Planet.

The elevation attains a level slightly higher than 500 metres in portions of the ecoregion. Major expanses of the Gibson Desert are characterized by gravel-covered topography covered in sparse desert grasses; furthermore, the arid ecoregion sports vast areas of undulating red sand plains and dunefields, low-lying rocky to gravelly ridges and sizeable upland lateriteA soil type rich in aluminum and iron, found in wet tropical zones soil areas. The sandy soil of the lateritic buckshot plains is particularly high in iron content. Several isolated saline lakes occur in the centre of the region, and at the southwest a series of smaller lakes follow ancient paleo-drainage features. Groundwater resources include elements of the Officer Basin and Canning Basin.


Annual precipitation  within the Gibson Desert can vary from 200 to 250 millimeters. The climate is typically hot, with austral summer maximum temperatures rising above 40 degrees Celsius, and winter maximum temperatures about 18 degrees Celsius; moreover, minimum winter temperatures are approximately six degrees Celsius.

Biodiversity features

caption Polytelis alexandrae is a Near Threatened bird species found in the Gibson Desert. Source: Jason Coburn There are 362 species of macro-sized animals present in this ecoregion, including a number of birds, reptiles and mammals.  There are five threatened species present within the Gibson Desert, although species endemism is low.

Threatened mammals found in the Gibson Desert are the: Vulnerable greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis) and the Near Threatened rock wallaby (Petrogale lateralis),.Two notable avafauna species present in the Gibson Desert are the Near Threatened Alexandra's parrot (Polytelis alexandrae) and the Near threatened Australian bustard (Ardeotis australis). The woma (Aspidites ramsayi) is an endangered species of reptile occurring here.

Current status

The conservation status of the Gibson Desert is Relatively Stable/Intact. This ecoregion has been designated as a G200 location by the World Wildlife Fund, indicating that is is of the highest conservation priority.

Types and severity of threats

The chief threat to this desert ecoregion is the introduction of predator alien species, which have already demonstrated disruption to the native food web.

Justification of ecoregion delineation

The Gibson Desert ecoregion comprises the Gibson Desert Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia or IBRA (Thackway and Cresswell 1995).


  • N.D.Burrows, A.D.Robinson, J.Sinagra, B.Ward and G.Liddelow. 2003. Controlling introduced predators in the Gibson Desert of Western Australia. Journal of Arid Environments 55 (4): 691–713.
  • 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.
  • Rangelands - Overview - Gibson Desert. Australian Natural Resources Atlas. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. 27-Jun-2009
  • Great Victoria and Gibson Deserts, Western Australia from Climate and Weather Atlas of Australia by Michael Thompson
  • R.I.Southgate. 1990. Distribution and abundance of the Greater Bilby Macrotis lagotis Reid (Marsupialia: Peramelidae). In Seebeck, J.H.; Brown, P.R.; Wallis, R.L.; Kemper, C.M.. Bandicoots and Bilbies. Chipping Norton: Surrey Beatty & Sons. pp. 293–302. ISBN 0-949324-33-7.

A portion of the Ecoregion delineation section of this paper was prepared by Angas Hopkins of the World Wildlife Fund.




Hogan, C. (2014). Gibson Desert. Retrieved from


To add a comment, please Log In.