Elizabeth Springs

Elizabeth Springs is one of a suite of nationally important artesian springs in the Great Artesian Basin, which is the world’s largest artesian basin. The artesian springs have been the primary natural source of permanent water in most of the Australian arid zone over the last 1.8 Million years (the Pleistocene and Holocene periods). These artesian springs, also known as mound springs, provide vital habitat for more widespread terrestrial vertebrates and invertebrates with aquatic larval young, and are a unique feature of the arid Australian landscape. As these artesian springs are some distance from each other in the Australian inland, and individually each one covers a relatively tiny area, their isolation has allowed the freshwater animal lineages to evolve into distinct species, which include fish, aquatic invertebrates (crustacean and freshwater snail species) and wetland plants. This results in a high level of endemism, or species that are found nowhere else in the world. Elizabeth Springs is nationally significant as it holds a suite of species which are genetically and evolutionarily distinct from other Great Artesian Basin springs, including an endemic freshwater snail and an endemic fish species. Elizabeth Springs also holds four of the eleven known Great Artesian Basin spring wetland endemic plants, along with five plant species not recorded within 500 kilometres of the springs, which are indicative of a wetter past. Elizabeth Springs is the only remaining relatively intact Great Artesian Basin spring with extant biota (fauna and flora) in far western Queensland and is regarded as one of the most important artesian springs because of its isolation, intactness and the extinction of other springs. Over 74% of the artesian springs in Queensland are extinct (no longer flowing) and all the artesian springs in New South Wales are extinct or badly damaged.

Government evidence of impact of climate change:

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  • Australian Government, Australian Heritage Database - Great Artesian Basin Springs: Elizabeth, Springvale Rd, Warra, QLD, Australia

    Ecologically GAB artesian springs are considered an evolutionary refuge as they allow wetland dependent (specialised habitat) species to persist as their original geographic range becomes uninhabitable due to drying over an extended period of time because of climatic change.