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AUSTRALIA: Flora & Fauna Report: Outback transformed by summer floods after record rainfall in South Australia’s north #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Feb.06: Vast stretches of the usually dry outback have been inundated with record rainfall, breathing new life into plants and wildlife that have been dormant.

#AceWeatherDesk says recent flooding has wreaked havoc in parts of outback South Australia, but there may be a silver, or perhaps green, lining to come from it all: an explosion of flora and fauna.

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An aerial view of a house and sheds surrounded by outback paddocks turning green
Arckaringa Station homestead, located 90 kilometres south-west of Oodnadatta, after the record rainfall. (Supplied: Katy Hayes)

“Everything that can move, does move,” David Watson, a professor in ecology at Charles Sturt University, told ABC News Channel.

“[The plants and animals] can sit there through pretty grim times and then, when conditions are right, when it’s wet and warm, they go bananas.

“This place has been transformed.”

Professor Watson said frogs, bats and ducks were among the wildlife that had been revitalised. 

“The frogs that have been waiting in deep, deep burrows in the mud — the water reaches down to them [and] they spring to life,” he said.

A small brown coloured crab
An inland crab found scuttling along the floodwaters on the road at Arckaringa Station. (Supplied: Katy Hayes)

The intense rainfall began about two weeks ago, with various downpours since, flooding roads and highways.

Katy Hayes and her family have noticed an increase in bird and insect life around their homestead at Arckaringa Cattle Station, 90 kilometres south-west of Oodnadatta.

The station received more than 200 millimetres of rain over the past two weeks. 

Director of the centre for ecosystem science at UNSW, Richard Kingsford, said new life emerged immediately after the rain.

He said insects and crustaceans almost straight away hatched out of eggs that have been sitting there since the last flood.

“A lot of them have been buried, ready for something to happen,” Professor Kingsford said.

An aerial view of paddocks with greenery spreading through dry paddocks
New growth on the usually dry and dusty outback ground.(Supplied: Katy Hayes)

With wildlife, comes more wildlife.

“It attracts this incredible food web of herbivores, invertebrate feeding birds, and you’ve got the predators, the hawks and eagles, and big fish that are eating little fish so it’s an amazing landscape,” Professor Kingsford said. 

In some parts of the state, water levels are already falling but, Professor Kingsford said, the greenery will stick around longer, with plants still set to flower.

“You get this absolute blanket of different-coloured flowers across the desert, which will be particularly spectacular, probably this spring,” he said. 

A small red bug on gravel
This red jewel bug was spotted at Arckaringa Station. (Supplied: Alice Quinn)

University of Adelaide ecologist John Read, who lives east of Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula, said aquatic animals, such as shield and clam shrimp, were turning up in water holes.

“You don’t see them in dry times,” he said.

Experts such as Dr Read have also predicted baby animals, including kangaroos, will be on their way.

“There’s going to be a whole range of changes we see over the next 12 months,” Dr Read said.

Professor Kingsford said one of the most impressive sights in flooded inland Australia was often the thousands of budgies that flock to the water.

“They’re just magic,” he told ABC Radio’s This Week with Linda Mottram.

“They have this amazing capability of knowing when it’s on … and being able to find where the good times are happening in the deserts.”

An aerial photograph of a flooded outback road
Floodwaters on the road from Arckaringa Station to Oodnadatta. (Supplied: Katy Hayes)

Dr Read said that, while the matter of how the birds do it remains a mystery, they are able to navigate thousands of kilometres to end up near water.

“They time their arrival just perfectly to take advantage of food resources in lakes or swamps,” he said.

But the floodwaters bring a potential downside too, with weeds and invasive species set to cause problems.

“We’re concerned about buffel grass, which is a really dangerous invasive grass that [covers] the environment and causes big fires,” Dr Read said.

He also cautioned that feral cats and foxes would make their way to where rabbits and mice have been breeding, causing problems over the next year or so, too.

#AceNewsDesk report ………..Published: Feb.06: 2022:

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