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In this paper we draw together a number of themes that have emerged in recent research on fauna and land use in arid environments. We also draw attention to the worldwide concern about desertification — the process that drives loss of biodiversity and productivity and the simplification of ecological processes — and evaluate how attitudes and policies in Australia are addressing the problem here. Although animals in arid Australia show many similar adaptations to those of ecologically equivalent animals elsewhere, the taxonomic composition of Australia's desert fauna is unique. Some species, such as snails, occur as relicts from wetter times in the past, while others have adapted more recently to aridity and have relatives in more temperate parts of the continent. Other species, especially among the mammals, have suffered severely due to land-use changes since European settlement and face continuing declines. Regrettably, research effort in arid Australia lags behind that in other regions due to difficulties of access and lack of resources, so the animals of the vast arid inland remain very much out on their own. At the international level, there is a clear acknowledgment that truly arid lands are fragile and low in productivity, and thus should be managed sensitively to exploit such attributes as their intense solar radiation and great aesthetic values. There is also recognition that although the semi-arid regions on the fringes of the true deserts have offered more potential for human settlement and intensive land use such as grazing, it is in these regions where desertification has been most intense. If current trends toward desertification are allowed to continue and predictions of climate change prove accurate, the beleaguered native animals of arid Australia will not just remain “out on their own”, but will also be “hung out to dry”.

Ezcurra, E. (ed.) 2006 Global Deserts Outlook. United Nations Environment Programme.
Finlayson, H. H. 1952 The Red Centre. Halstead Press, Sydney.
Graham-Rowe, D. 2006. The heat is on for desert life. New Scientist 2555, 10 June.
Haynes, R. D. 1998 Seeking the Centre: the Australian desert in literature, art and film. Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.
James, A. V. G. 1927 The New South Wales Intermediate Geography Text Book. The Speciality Press, Melbourne.
Kerle, J. A. 1995 Uluru, Kata-Tjuta & Watarrka = Ayers Rock, the Olgas & Kings Canyon, Northern Territory. University of New South Wales Press, Sydney.
Lunney, D. 1994. Royal Commission of 1901 on the western lands of New South Wales — an ecologist's summary. Pp. 221-40 in The Future of the Fauna of Western New South Wales (eds D. Lunney, S. Hand, P. Reed and D. Butcher). Royal Zoological Society of NSW, Mosman.
Lunney, D. 2001. Causes of the extinction of native mammals of the Western Division of New South Wales: an ecological interpretation of the nineteenth century historical record. The Rangeland Journal 23: 44-70.
Lunney, D., Hand, S., Reed, P. and Butcher, D. (eds). 1994 The Future of the Fauna of Western New South Wales. Royal Zoological Society of NSW, Mosman.
Madigan, C. T. 1944 Central Australia. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005 Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Current State and Trends. Findings of the Condition and Trends Working Group. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Series, Volume 1, Island Press, Washington, D. C.
Morton, S. R. 1986. Land of uncertainty: the Australian arid zone. Pp 122-44 in A Natural Legacy. Ecology in Australia, edited by H. Recher, D. Lunney and I. Dunn. Pergamon Press, Rushcutters Bay, NSW.
Morton, S. R. and Mulvaney, D. J. (eds). 1996 Exploring Central Australia. Society, the Environment and the 1894 Horn Expedition. Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton, NSW.
Noble, J. 2001. Guest editorial. The Rangeland Journal 23(1): 3-4.
Read, J. L. 2003 Red Sand, Green heart. Ecological adventures in the outback. Lothian books, South Melbourne, Victoria.
Slatyer, R. O. 1969. Preface. Pp. vii-ix in Australia's Arid Lands (eds R. O. Slatyer and R. A. Perry) Australian National University Press, Canberra.
Slatyer, R. O. and Perry, R. A. (eds). 1969 Australia's Arid Lands. Australian National University Press, Canberra.
Taylor, G. 1940 Australia. A study of warm environments and their effect on British settlement. Methuen and Co, London.
van Oosterzee, P. 1998 A Field Guide to Central Australia. J. B. Books, South Australia.
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References

Ezcurra, E. (ed.) 2006 Global Deserts Outlook. United Nations Environment Programme.
Finlayson, H. H. 1952 The Red Centre. Halstead Press, Sydney.
Graham-Rowe, D. 2006. The heat is on for desert life. New Scientist 2555, 10 June.
Haynes, R. D. 1998 Seeking the Centre: the Australian desert in literature, art and film. Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.
James, A. V. G. 1927 The New South Wales Intermediate Geography Text Book. The Speciality Press, Melbourne.
Kerle, J. A. 1995 Uluru, Kata-Tjuta & Watarrka = Ayers Rock, the Olgas & Kings Canyon, Northern Territory. University of New South Wales Press, Sydney.
Lunney, D. 1994. Royal Commission of 1901 on the western lands of New South Wales — an ecologist's summary. Pp. 221-40 in The Future of the Fauna of Western New South Wales (eds D. Lunney, S. Hand, P. Reed and D. Butcher). Royal Zoological Society of NSW, Mosman.
Lunney, D. 2001. Causes of the extinction of native mammals of the Western Division of New South Wales: an ecological interpretation of the nineteenth century historical record. The Rangeland Journal 23: 44-70.
Lunney, D., Hand, S., Reed, P. and Butcher, D. (eds). 1994 The Future of the Fauna of Western New South Wales. Royal Zoological Society of NSW, Mosman.
Madigan, C. T. 1944 Central Australia. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005 Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Current State and Trends. Findings of the Condition and Trends Working Group. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Series, Volume 1, Island Press, Washington, D. C.
Morton, S. R. 1986. Land of uncertainty: the Australian arid zone. Pp 122-44 in A Natural Legacy. Ecology in Australia, edited by H. Recher, D. Lunney and I. Dunn. Pergamon Press, Rushcutters Bay, NSW.
Morton, S. R. and Mulvaney, D. J. (eds). 1996 Exploring Central Australia. Society, the Environment and the 1894 Horn Expedition. Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton, NSW.
Noble, J. 2001. Guest editorial. The Rangeland Journal 23(1): 3-4.
Read, J. L. 2003 Red Sand, Green heart. Ecological adventures in the outback. Lothian books, South Melbourne, Victoria.
Slatyer, R. O. 1969. Preface. Pp. vii-ix in Australia's Arid Lands (eds R. O. Slatyer and R. A. Perry) Australian National University Press, Canberra.
Slatyer, R. O. and Perry, R. A. (eds). 1969 Australia's Arid Lands. Australian National University Press, Canberra.
Taylor, G. 1940 Australia. A study of warm environments and their effect on British settlement. Methuen and Co, London.
van Oosterzee, P. 1998 A Field Guide to Central Australia. J. B. Books, South Australia.
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