Gibber Plains

I’m a creature of knee high shrubbery. Grasslands, deserts, swamps, dunes. I’m not sure what it is about such landscapes, but I thoroughly enjoy them. (However, I have recently learnt while camping on the plains that the occasional 1-3m tall shrub is very useful for privately toileting.)

An interesting feature of central Australia are gibber plains. A gibber plain is usually a heavy textured soil covered by a protective armour of pebbles. They are formed by the wind blowing soil particles away, leaving the pebbles behind. Eventually, the surface is entirely coated by rock, and the soil below is protected from the wind. When we talk about ‘cover’ protecting soils from erosion, it’s not just plants and plant litters but also things like the rock armour of the gibber plains.

I suspect that when people think of Australia’s deserts, sand dunes and gibber plains are what comes to mind. In my recent trip from Adelaide to Alice Springs however, much of the inland area looks very savanna-like. Tall shrubs and small trees. Small shrubs and grasses. Reeds and lillypads living in the few waterholes. An enormous amount of standing biomass toughing it out in the arid interior.