Australian rangelands and climate change – dust

Australian rangelands and climate change – dust Report

Climate Change in Australia – Impacts & Adaptation Information for Australia’s NMR Regions

  • Author(s): Bastin, G.
  • Published: 2014
  • Publisher: Rangelands NMR Cluster, Ninti One Limited and CSIRO

Abstract: •Rangelands dust is related to ground cover and fluctuates with seasonal conditions (i.e. dust is more likely to emanate from erodible soils during drought).Atmospheric dust provides a local-to regional-scale indicator of the effectiveness of grazing management in pastoral country and the recent fire regime in spinifex deserts. Land managers should endeavour to maintain critical levels of ground cover so as to minimise soil and nutrient loss via dust resulting from wind erosion in dry times. •There have been some dramatic year-to-year changes in dust activity in the recent past, particularly between 2009 (when there was substantial dust in the atmosphere) and 2010 (minimal atmospheric dust).These changes were mainly associated with rainfall, that is, improved seasonal quality in 2010. •It is probable that the domains and magnitudes of recent dust activity in drought periods will recur with continuing climate variability, particularly rainfall. Increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves and lower humidity may also contribute to increased dust •Visibility as affected by atmospheric dust can indicate wind erosion rate, although actual weather conditions, soil type, vegetation type and amount of ground cover are also important •Griffith University uses a Dust Storm Index (DSI) to report wind erosion activity across Australia. The index is based on historic visibility data recorded by Bureau of Meteorology observers. DSI maps indicate the likely sources of dust and their levels over time. •In the recent past (1992–2010) within the Rangelands Cluster region, most dust appeared to emanate from within the more arid parts of the Lake Eyre Basin (particularly the Simpson–Strzelecki Dunefields and Channel Country bioregions) extending west into central Australia (the MacDonnell Ranges), north into the Mitchell Grass Downs and Mount Isa Inlier bioregions, east and south-east into the Mulga Lands and Riverina, and south into the Gawler bioregion (SA Arid Lands).The WA Rangelands were less active as a dust source.

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Suggested Citation
Bastin, G., 2014, Australian rangelands and climate change – dust, Report, viewed 15 June 2024,

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