East meets West
East Meets West NatureLink
The East Meets West NatureLink covers an immense region running from central Eyre Peninsula in the west of South Australia across the Nullarbor Plain and along the Great Australian Bight to the Western Australian border.
The NatureLink consists of three climatic zones: Arid, Mediterranean and Marine. On land this encompasses around 21 million hectares of mostly continuous vegetated area, including a Mediterranean zone belt of remnant vegetation 200-kilometre long that links the coastal environment to farmland, Mallee and acacia shrublands and woodlands. Around 46% of native vegetation cover in the zone is formally protected, but there is also a high degree of fragmentation.
By contrast the extensive arid region, while under pressure from grazing, retains a high degree of connectivity, featuring a continuous band of protected areas covering over 5.9 million hectares, including the largest Wilderness Protection Area in South Australia.
This region is also a place where interaction between different ocean currents and the physical environment produces a great diversity and endemism of marine species. Thanks to the Eyre Peninsula's isolation – by sea to the east and west and arid lands to the north – the same is true for terrestrial species. At least 40 plant species are endemic to the Eyre, while offshore islands feature species that have never occurred, or become extinct, on the mainland.
The East Meets West is also a region where the eastern and western geographic ranges of many plants and animals overlap. The result is a unique mixture of species but also a higher sensitivity to changing climatic conditions as many species are at the extremes of their current range.
The region hosts a wide range of activities including nature based tourism, fishing, aquaculture and related industries, shipping and transportation, agriculture, primary production, mining, mineral and petroleum exploration, urban development and science and education.
Many areas are still used and managed by indigenous people in a customary fashion as they have done for nearly 40,000 years – travelling through, foraging and camping across the region.
The Eyre Peninsula and far west of South Australia are well-placed for conserving biodiversity under a changing climate due to the vast network of National Parks, Conservation Parks and Heritage Agreements – the NatureLink contains 54 reserves and 179 Heritage Agreements, along with four large Wilderness Protection Areas: Nullarbor, Yellabinna, Hincks and Hambidge WPA's. This is the highest level of protection possible to prevent exploration and mining from reducing the ecological resilience of these areas.