TS-CRC Student project - The impact of cattle grazing at the Great Basalt Wall

James Cook University, Townville

Nikki Thurgate

Nikki Thurgate with one of her reptilian research subjects

Nikki Thurgate with one of her reptilian research subjects

The project examined the effect of grazing on the abundance and diversity of reptiles at Queensland's Great Basalt Wall, north-west of Charters Towers in Queensland. The project took place in nine separate areas of habitat on two different properties and found 27 species of geckos, goannas, skinks and snakes. The sites are found within a natural barrier provided by the Great Basalt Wall. The Wall is the result of a volcanic flow that probably took place about 13,000 years ago. Lava flowed into low-lying areas leaving pockets of vegetation on higher ground, but those pockets now lie lower than the basalt, effectively preventing stock animals from entering the area.

The abundance and diversity of reptiles was quantified in both grazed and ungrazed habitats. The majority of reptile species were negatively affected by cattle grazing. There were almost twice as many individual animals in the ungrazed sites as in the grazed sites. Species diversity was also significantly higher in ungrazed sites. The species Gehyra catenata, Morethia boulengeri and Ctenotus robustus were the most strongly disadvantaged by pastoralism. Investigation of biogeographic variables suggested that reptile abundance and diversity were not related to patch area or isolation. All project objectives outlined in the research were fulfilled.

Nikki Thurgate was also awarded the University Medal at her graduation in April 1998.


A/Prof Ross Alford, JCU
Dr Jon Luly, JCU

Major Informal Advisors

Steve Delean