The Pilbara region is located in the northwestern corner of Australia’s arid zone. It is a unique, ancient landscape that consists of distinct geology, climate, topography, vegetation and fauna. For instance, total plant diversity is approaching 1800 species, with approximately 15% of these species endemic to the region. Situated largely in the summer rainfall zone of the north, the majority of the rainfall occurs when temperatures are at their peak in the months of December, January, February, and March. Maximum temperatures consistently exceed 40-45°C in parts of the Pilbara during summer and the boom and bust cycles of moisture availability can be highly variable and dependent on summer thunderstorms, tropical cyclones, and sporadic winter rains. Therefore, the flora and fauna of this arid region is highly attuned to survive harsh seasonal fluctuations in temperature and moisture availability.
The elevated ranges, ridges, and mesa outcrops of the Hamersley Ranges located in the south are the landscape features most characteristically associated with the Pilbara. Some of the world’s oldest rocks, at 3.5 billion years old, can be found in parts of these landscapes. Feeding out and winding through these more hilly sections are deep gullies, drainage lines, and creeks that flow into the many rivers, drainage flats, and floodplain networks of the Fortescue Marsh to the north and the Gascoyne region to the south.
The Fortescue subregion bisects the Pilbara in an east-west direction and forms a distinct topographical barrier between the southern mountains of the Hamersley Range, and the northern regions that contain more isolated rocky ranges (e.g. Chichester Range), granitic outcrops and flats, coarse river systems (e.g. the De Grey, Fortescue, and Yule Rivers), and the fringing coastal zone.
Ecological research that the ERIE lab group are involved in include studying the habitat use and predator associations of the northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus), and plant recruitment limitations in mined landscapes. Each of these programs investigate the underlying ecology that allows these species to exist in such a harsh, arid landscape.