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Attributes of rock-dwelling reptiles within the Australian wheat-sheep zone

Cite this dataset

Michael, Damian (2021). Attributes of rock-dwelling reptiles within the Australian wheat-sheep zone [Dataset]. Dryad.


  1. Rocky environments host rich levels of biodiversity, and provide vital habitat for specialised organisms, range-restricted species, and a broad range of ectotherms adapted to saxicoline environments.
  2. In Australia, rock habitat is being destroyed during soil amelioration practices associated with agricultural intensification. Advances in rock crushing technology, developed to expand or increase crop yields and efficiency, pose an undocumented threat to biodiversity, especially reptiles dependent on non-renewable rock habitat in agricultural landscapes worldwide. Rock removal is a legislated key threatening process in parts of Australia and will accelerate biodiversity loss if not mitigated.
  3. We estimated reptile species’ range overlap with dryland cropping and modified pastoral regions within the Australian wheat-sheep zone to assess potential impacts of rock crushing practices. We examined species- and family-richness within the impact zone, and across bioregions within the impact zone, to identify areas where rock removal has the greatest potential to impact terrestrial and fossorial squamates.  
  4. Our analysis revealed that 159 potentially impacted reptile species occur within the study area, representing 16% of Australian terrestrial squamates. Fourteen of these species, including six threatened species, have more than 50% range overlap with areas of intensive agriculture, and include several endangered pygopodids, scincids and agamids.  
  5. Bioregions rich in rock and burrow-dwelling reptiles include the Brigalow Belt South, Murray-Darling Depression, Darling Riverina Plains, Eyre York Block, Avon Wheatbelt, Nandewar, Flinders Lofty Block and New South Wales South Western Slopes.
  6. Synthesis and applications. The conservation of reptiles in agricultural landscapes requires appropriate management and retention of surface rocks. Potential yield increases from destroying rock habitat to intensify or expand cropland will not compensate for the net loss of reptile populations dependent on non-renewable resources. Financial incentives to prevent the expansion and transformation of non-arable landscapes to cropland is required to prevent ongoing loss of biodiversity.


Data sourced from the IUCN Red List database

Usage notes

A read me file has been included along with the excel dataset.