Cape River subcatchment draft HEV waters
The Cape River is a large seasonal river system. The average rainfall for the subcatchment is between 550 mm and 650 mm, most falling during monsoonal storms of the wet season with very little falling during the rest of the year. Very few water bodies persist through the dry season, located towards the downstream sections of the river and its anabranches where the Cape River is joined by it largest tributary, the Campaspe River.
Only one area in the Cape River subcatchment was identified by the WQIP ecological values technical panel to be “effectively unmodified” (ANZECC 2000) and has been categorised as containing High Ecological Value (HEV) waters. This is the area protected within the White Mountain National Park and the adjacent area of the White Mountains Resource Reserve.
The White Mountains National Park and the adjacent area of the White Mountains Resource Reserve is characterised by white sandstone formations, from which the area gets its name, and a complex gorge system. Physiographic landforms include smooth plateaux and plains, elevated and rugged ranges, dissected sandstone hills, and dissected plains, contrasting with the gently sloping basalt plains to the west and the gentle grassed black-soil prairies to the south. The White Mountains is one of several significant sandstone outcrops occurring along the edges of the Great Artesian Basin in Queensland. These sandstone isolates are important biologically and provide specialised microhabitats, in particular deep-sheltered gorges and spring-fed aquatic ecosystems. The White Mountains subsequently has a high level of endemism for both flora and fauna. The Park protects a diverse range of plant and animal communities in the Alice Tablelands Province of the Desert Uplands bioregion. The Park has high habitat diversity with 14 different regional ecosystems and many ecotones between vegetation communities. The area is relatively well surveyed biologically. Animals of conservation significance include: the Black Throated Finch (Poephila cincta), Squatter Pigeon (Geophaps scripta), Grey Falcon (Falco hypoleucos), Square Tailed Kite (Lophoictinia isura), White-eared Honey-eater (Lichenostomus leucotis), brown thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla), Spectacled Hare-wallaby (Lagorchestes conspicillatus) and a moth (Seymon brontius).
The White Mountains Area is interesting in that it is an area of confluence of several major landscape features. The White Mountains National park lies within the Desert Uplands biogeographic region, encompassing its highest elevation areas (450 – 780 m), but abuts to The Einasleigh Uplands, with the Mitchell Grass Downs bioregions nearby to the west. The area forms part of the Great Dividing Range, therefore, dividing the coastal and inland Eyrean and Torresian landscapes.
Three drainage systems occur within this area. The northern section drains to the Flinders River and then on to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The western section flows to the Torrens Creek system which is part of the Lake Ayre basin. Only the south-eastern section of the White Mountains area flows to the Cape River and then to the Burdekin and east coast.
The main stream systems flowing from the south-eastern section are Betts Creek and Warrigal Creek. These are both seasonal streams that are upper tributaries of the Cape River. For much of the year the White Mountains National Park and the adjacent area of the White Mountains Resource Reserve is an arid landscape but during the wet season small streams flow through sandstone gorges. The stream beds are flat-floored, with steep vegetated slopes leading to high cliffed, water- and lichen-stained, walls, although many of the larger of these systems occur in the northern section of the area outside the Cape River subcatchment. Limited information is available on the aquatic biota of the water ways of this area. However, the Royal Geographic Society of Queensland did undertake a survey there in 2000. The freshwater fish of the area was described by Ray Leggett, The freshwater fish fauna of White Mountains National Park, Royal Geographic Society of Queensland. Other aquatic fauna described during this survey include:
- Reeves, Deniss M. Odonata (damselflies and dragonflies) of White Mountains National Park. Qld Geograph. Soc.
- Weir, T.A. Aquatic beetles (Insecta: Coleoptera; Hydradephaga, Hydrophilidae and Hydraenidae) of the White Mountains National Park.
- Weir, T.A. Semi-aquatic bugs (Insecta; Hemitpera: Gerromorpha) of the White Mountains National Park.
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