Deserts of Australia

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Deserts in Australia
Deserts of Australia (in red), overlaid with internal boundaries and Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) biogeographic regions.
Climate zones in Australia
Rain days in Australia

Named deserts of Australia cover 1,371,000 square kilometres (529,000 sq mi), or 18% of the Australian mainland.[1] However, additional areas are considered to have a desert climate based on low rainfall and high temperature. The largest of the landform types covering Australia, deserts – and their arid climatic conditions – are found primarily in the western plateau and interior lowlands of the country.

Deserts are not necessarily completely devoid of vegetation, but have large areas where vegetation is very limited in height or extent.


Desert State/territory Area Area rank Proportion of AU mainland area
Great Victoria Desert Western Australia, South Australia 348,750 km2 134,650 sq mi 1 4.5%
Great Sandy Desert Western Australia 267,250 km2 103,190 sq mi 2 3.4%
Tanami Desert Western Australia, Northern Territory 184,500 km2 71,200 sq mi 3 2.4%
Simpson Desert Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia 176,500 km2 68,100 sq mi 4 2.3%
Gibson Desert Western Australia 156,000 km2 60,000 sq mi 5 2.0%
Little Sandy Desert Western Australia 111,500 km2 43,100 sq mi 6 1.5%
Strzelecki Desert South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales 80,250 km2 30,980 sq mi 7 1.0%
Sturt Stony Desert South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales 29,750 km2 11,490 sq mi 8 0.3%
Tirari Desert South Australia 15,250 km2 5,890 sq mi 9 0.2%
Pedirka Desert South Australia 1,250 km2 480 sq mi 10 0.016%

Great Victoria Desert[edit]

Main article: Great Victoria Desert

The Great Victoria Desert lies in Western Australia and South Australia. It is over 800 kilometres (500 mi) wide and covers an area of 348,750 square kilometres (134,650 sq mi).

Gibson Desert[edit]

Main article: Gibson Desert
A four wheel drive vehicle in the Gibson Desert

The Gibson Desert lies in central Western Australia. The desert is about 156,000 square kilometres (60,000 sq mi) in size. Most of the inhabitants of the area are Indigenous Australians.

Desert group[edit]

  • Western Desert – is a grouping of the Gibson Desert the Great Sandy Desert and Little Sandy Desert.

Climate issues[edit]

Australia's climate is mostly determined by the hot, sinking air of the subtropical high pressure belt.[2] Dry conditions are associated with an El Niño–Southern Oscillation in Australia. Vegetation in arid areas is primarily dependent upon soil type.[2]

Extensive areas are cover by longitudinal dunes. 40% of Australia is covered by dunes.[2] Central Australia is very dry where averages are 150 mm of rainfall each year.[2]

Ecological issues[edit]

Numerous introduced species have effect on the fauna and flora of desert regions.

Australian feral camel are presenting problems for native vegetation. This is partly because Australian desert vegetation evolved without any major herbivore present.[2]

Also un-controlled access to more sensitive areas by four-wheel drive vehicles can be an issue.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Geosciences Australia –Deserts
  2. ^ a b c d e Laity, Julie J. (2009). Deserts and Desert Environments. John Wiley & Sons. p. 43, 45. ISBN 1444300741. Retrieved 8 November 2012. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Johnson, John & Catherine de Courcy.(1998) Desert Tracks Port Melbourne, Vic. Lothian Books. ISBN 0-85091-811-1