Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Australia - Northern Territory - Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Lightning strikes over Uluru

Sent by Alison, a WiP partner from Australia.

Situated on the southern margin of the major Amadeus sedimentary basin, the park comprises extensive sand plains, dunes and alluvial desert, punctuated by the Uluru monolith and Kata Tjuta.
Uluru is composed of hard sandstone which has been exposed as a result of folding, faulting and the erosion of surrounding rock. The monolith has a base circumference of 9.4 km, smooth sloping sides of up to 80° gradient and a relatively flat top. Major surface features of the rock include sheet erosion with layers 1-3 m thick, parallel to the existing surface, breaking away; deep parallel fissures which extend from the top and down the sides of the monolith; and a number of caves, inlets and overhangs at the base formed by chemical degradation and sand blast erosion.
Kata Tjuta comprises 36 steep-sided rock domes of gently dipping Mount Currie conglomerate consisting of phenocrysts of fine-grained acid and basic rocks, granite and gneiss in an epidote-rich matrix. Kata Tjuta tends to have hemispherical summits, near-vertical sides, steep-sided intervening valleys and has been exposed by the same process as Uluru.
The vegetation, modified by substrate stability, climate and fire, can be grouped into five major categories, arranged concentrically around the monolith formations. First, Uluru supports hardy perennial grass in soil pockets, and sedge on very shallow soil; second, the Kata Tjuta foothills support annual grasses; third, the fans and outwash alluviums around the monoliths support a complex of open grassland, low trees and shrubs. During rainy periods this vegetation can be luxuriant. Fourth, the plains area supports dense groves of mulga, acacia and native fuschia. Fifth, the sand dunes, rises and plains are dominated by spinifex grass.
There are 22 native mammals found in the park, including dingo, red kangaroo, common marsupial mole, hopping mouse, several bat species including Australian false vampire, bilgy, occasional short-nosed echidna, and several small marsupials and native rodents. Introduced red fox, cat, house mouse and European rabbit, in addition to feral dogs and camels, compete with indigenous species. More than 150 bird species have been recorded in the park, and all five Australian reptile families are represented.
The park, and in particular the Uluru monolith, is one of several equally important and interconnected centers of local and religious significance scattered throughout the extensive area of western central Australia occupied by Aborigines. Cave paintings on Uluru, some of which are considered to be ancient, indicate the length of time Aborigines have been present in the area. Traditional religious philosophy, Tjukurpa, provides an interpretation of the present landscape, flora, fauna and natural phenomena in terms of the journeys and activities of ancestral beings and consequently binds the people socially, spiritually and historically to the land.
The site is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement representative of Aboriginal culture, directly associated with religious and cultural traditions. (Source)

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