Barkindji Biosphere Reserve, Australia

Located in Southeast Australia, the Barkindji Biosphere Reserve lies within the largest river basin of Australia — the Murray-Darling Basin. Eleven land systems spread across dunes, sand plains, wetlands, floodplains and along the Murray River characterize the topography of the reserve. Subdued mountain ranges surround Barkindji, except for the southwestern area. In addition, a rich variability in soils can be found within the reserve: red earths, grey and brown clays, and calcareous and siliceous sands represent just a few examples. Moreover, sudden changes from wetland to shrubland and semi-arid forest highlight Barkindji’s diversity of soils and habitats.

Designation Date: 2005
Administrative Authorities: Barkindji Biosphere Ltd; New South Wales Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources; Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment; Trust for Nature; Australian Inland Botanic Gardens; Lower Murray Water; Mr. Terry Hill and Mr. Dudley Marrows.
Surface area (terrestrial): 191,823 ha
Core area(s): 41,521 ha
Buffer area(s): 14,302 ha
Transition area(s): 136,000 ha

Latitude: 34°10’S
Longitude: 142°10’E
Central point: 34°6’5.09”S - 142°5’60”E

Ecological Characteristics

©Lip Kee
Barkindji Biosphere Reserve, Australia

Even though the semi-arid climate causes highly variable rainfall, there exist diverse habitats and ecosystems; riverine forests, wetlands and floodplains can be found along the Murray River, while sand plains and dunes are located farther away. The highest sand dunes rise up to 50 metres above sea level. Furthermore, various small rivers, creeks and channels originate from the Murray River basin and provide natural habitats for flora and fauna. Many plants have specific characteristics that are adapted to the periodical water supply caused by unexpected rainfall and other climatic conditions.

The Biosphere Reserve is of great ecological value, as it is home to 800-year-old river red gums and 3,500-year-old Mallee lignotubers. There also are unique collections of grevillea species: more than 360 species can be found throughout the reserve, 10 of which are newly identified and still unnamed. Yet, some plant species are under threat, including the Atriplex papillata (Saline area saltbush), Astrostipa nullanulla (Nulla nulla) and Santalum murrayanum (Bitter Quandong).

Different animal species also live in Barkindji. Examples include the Tadorna tadornoides (Australian Shelduck) and the Clumba livia (Rock Dove). However, endangered fauna species also live within the reserve, such as the Botaurus poiciloptilus (Australasian Bittern), Porzana pusilla (Bailon’s Crake) and Falco subniger (Black Falcon). Specific conservation sites have been created to help preserve endangered bird species, including the International Flight Centre – a bird sanctuary – and the Mildura Waste Water Treatment Lagoon, which is a tranquil oasis running alongside the Murray River and home to rare and endangered fauna such as the freckled duck, great egret, Murray cod and freshwater catfish among others.

Socio-Economic Characteristics

The seasonal population of the reserve amounts to approximately 133 visitors with around 52 permanent residents. The nearest major towns are Mildura, Victoria, Wentworth and New South Wales. Indigenous Aboriginals living within the reserve are known as the Barkindji. Today, strong links and common values have been established between the Aboriginals and Europeans living in the Biosphere Reserve. However, when Europeans first settled in the area in 1830, many Barkindji moved away or died in combat. The European settlers took their lands and water supplies. Subsequent overgrazing by cattle and overuse of water supplies were a root cause of salinization of soil and water, the results of which still persist today. Wind erosion and water pollution also contribute to the imminent desertification of the reserve. Numerous projects and economic activities, such as ecotourism, salt and sand mining, and sustainable agriculture, have been undertaken in an effort to mitigate this problem.

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