Great Sandy Desert

The Great Sandy Desert (also known as the Great Sand Desert ) is one of the largest in Australia , a country that has about 40% of its territory occupied by deserts. Located in the north of Western Australia, this desert extends northwest to the Indian Ocean , in a vast practically uninhabited territory of the southwest of the Kimberley Plateau – it is the only one in the country that reaches the coast, forming the Eighty Mile Beach. Miles, in Portuguese). This desert covers an area of ​​approximately 340,000 km² and has a type of stony and sandy soil. The sands, as in most Australian deserts, are bright red in color, due to a coating of oxides ofiron in your grains.

Location of the Great Sandy Desert. Map: Google Maps.

Precipitation is relatively high, with most rain falling as occasional storms. In the region, rainfall averages are between 250 and 300 millimeters per year, and temperatures range from a maximum of 42 ° C to a minimum of 25 ° C, and during the day they are between 38 ° C and 42 ° C. The short winter is hot, averaging 25 ° C to 30 ° C. Intense heat causes much of the moisture to be lost through evaporation , making it unavailable to plants. There is a type of sharp grass that is one of the few plants that can survive in this environment. Its name is Spinifex, a genus of flowering plants belonging to the Poaceae family. In the taxonomic classification of Jussieu (1789), Spinifex is the name of a botanical genus, of the order Gramineae, class Monocotyledons , with hypogynic stamens.

In terms of fauna, we can highlight the greater bilby , which is a highly endangered marsupial. He digs a hole up to three meters long and takes shelter there during the day, going out at night to feed on seeds, fruits and insects . Species that have been introduced to the region are largely responsible for this threat. This is the case of dingos , which were introduced in Australia about 3,500 years ago, coming from Southeast Asia. They are considered a pest, as they attack livestock and therefore have been excluded from parts of Australia with the construction of fences. Along with more recently introduced species, such as foxes and domestic cats, dingos are hunters of small marsupialsnatives, such as the greater bilby . Another exogenous threat is the European rabbit, which has displaced much of the endemic fauna and destroyed vegetation, helping to permanently change the landscape of arid Australian regions.

Although many systems dunes of the desert are stable, some of the Great Sandy Desert are changeable by changing their shapes constantly. This active dune movement zone establishes geological features of great interest. A highlight of this process was recorded in a photo by the crew of a space expedition. In the image (available below), it is possible to observe numerous linear dunes approximately 25 meters high, separated almost regularly, with distances between 0.5 and 1.5 kilometers. The dunes are aligned according to the prevailing wind in the region that generated them, and that normally blow from east to west. The dunes appear red from the underlying sand where the thin vegetation has been burned and darker where the vegetation remains.

This photo was taken on March 25, 2013 by NASA’s Expedition 35 crew, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 400mm lens, and was provided by the ISS experiment called ISS Crew Earth Observation and the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory , at the Johnson Space Center.

Registered photo from space, showing the features of the dunes of the Great Sandy Desert. Photo: NASA .

In addition to the Great Sandy Desert, we have other important deserts in Australia, such as Tanami, Simpson, Gibson and the Great Victoria Desert, which is among the ten largest in the world.

by Abdullah Sam
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