Uluru Ayers rock

Place:

How was it formed: Uluru and Kata Tjuta lie near and between the southern margin of an area called the Amadeus basin. More than 500 million years ago the ranges in this region eroded, limestone, sand and mud deposited in the basin eventually formed Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

What is Uluru made of: A quick look at Uluru and Kata Tjuta will leave you in no doubt that it is made of many different types of rock. The Uluru rock is arkose, which is a course gained sandstone rich in the mineral feldspar. Ayers Rock has received layers upon layers of sediment which changed into rock over several hundred million years.

Significant to indigenous Australian: Uluru is more than just a rock, it's a living cultural landscape of which is considered sacred to the Yankunutjatjaran and Pitjantjatjaran people. This is a very special place that carries a great spiritual and cultural significance for the local indigenous tribes, and consists of over 40 sacred aboriginal sites, and there are eleven Tjurkurpa or Dreaming trails present in the area.

Space:

Where is Uluru: The world wide famous landmark, previously well know as Ayers Rock, now recognised as Uluru can be found in the south western region of Northern Territory in Australia. Uluru is specifically located to the right of the Uluru National Park, just east of Kata Tjuta. The National Park doesn't provide tourists with accomodation or services but there is an aboriginal settlement there.

Shape and size: Uluru is better known as Ayers Rock, it is named by William Gosse in 1873 after Sir Henry Ayers. Uluru is actually the rocks aboriginal and official name. Ayers rock is a large sandstone rock and the formation that is located 450km (280miles) away from Alice Springs in the idle of the Australian outback. Ayers Rock sits right in the middle of the National Park, about 335kms southwest of Alice Springs.

Structure and origin: Uluru and Kata Tjuta are made of many different types of rock. The Uluru rock is made of arkose, a coarse grained sandstone rich in the mineral feldspar. The sandy sediment, which hardened to form this arkose, was eroded from high mountains composed largely of granite. Kata Tjuta rock is a conglomerate gravel consisting of pebbles, cobbles and boulders cemented by sand and mud. The area surrounding the formation is home to an abundance of springs, waterholes, rock caves and ancient paintings.

Vegetation: There are over 400 plants around Uluru, many of the plants in Uluru are culturally important and additionally provide a source of food. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises tourists experience when going to Australian outback is how green the landscape really is, this is a direct reflection of the slightly larger then 416 species of native plants that exist in the Uluru, Kata- Tjuta National Park alone.

Animal life: In Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park there are 21 species of native mammals, 178 species of birds, 73 species of reptiles and a hundred thousand species of invertebrates which include ants, spiders and bugs.

Climate: Uluru's temperatures can ranges from 3.5 degrees Celsius in July the middle of winter to 37.5 degrees Celsius in January, the height of the Australian summer. On average, Uluru receives approximately 308mm of rainfall each year, this is directly linked to the fact that it sits in the centre of Australia, in a dry desert type of climate. There is normally only 5 days during the whole year where there is cloud cover and this doesn't necessarily mean that it will actually rain.

Rare plants: There are several regionally significant rare plants species which occur in the Kata Tjuta Park. Some of these rare plants include one threatened species, Mangata, this is specifically a food source for camels, because of their excessive feeding of this plant it has been significantly reduced in this area making it threatened. Some plant species are also restricted in their distribution in this region because they are used for weaving, eaten to condition and strengthen hair and for general consumption by the aboriginal people. Additionally several species only exist in isolated patches, they are remnants of broader populations, but because of climate changes and seasonal conditions they exist mainly now in the wet areas, these include puta-puta, lobelia and carnivorous sundew.

The effect of tourism industry:

Uluru is one of Australia's most popular tourist destinations. In The last number of decades the view of tourism at Uluru has changed, previously thousands upon thousands of tourists climbed Uluru, because of this the climbing footpaths are now eroding, wearing away which could cause safety issues. Tourists visit daily in the hundreds, and with them unfortunately comes their rubbish and waste products, the top of Uluru doesn't have sufficient rubbish bins or toileting facilities so rubbish is beginning to destroy the environment here. These tourist issues alone have changed the face of Uluru, and it is because of this that this sacred landscape may forever be altered. As it is considered by aboriginal people to be a sacred place, they are seeking for it to be a "no climbing" site, and as the current land lease to allow climbing expires in 2020 after this time it is most likely that tourists may be able to experience Uluru from a visual stand point only.

Problems, challenges and sustainability issues?

Problems: Due to the large numbers of tourists visiting Uluru each day these are some of the problems being noticed : trampling and destruction of native flora, the wearing away of walking paths, the increased amount of human rubbish and more disturbingly the increased amount of human waste at the top of Uluru because of the limited number of toilets. Another problem for Uluru is that although in the early 1960s safety chains were installed to keep tourists in specific walking areas, tourists have ignored this and over 30 people have lost there lives climbing the rock as well as many being injured.

Challenges: One of the challenges in Uluru is the fact that aboriginal people feel differently about the land compared to government members or people of authority. Another challenge for people visiting Uluru is that you have to drive 20km to the nearest resort which is eroding the environment when driving on the land that surrounds the rock.

Sustainability issues: Alternatively Segway tours are available which cut down the Carbon Monoxide emissions, because they run on batteries there are no green house gas emissions. There is assistance by Landcare groups in trails maintenance, keeping the paths in good walking condition. As well as weed control, removing the invasive Buffel grass so that the natural flora can continue to grow uninhibited.

What actions need to be taken to manage Uluru? In order to mange Uluru the aboriginal community and the Northern Territory government need to work together so that the cultural heritage of this Australian landmark can be shared to many more generations to come. Working together with the preservation of Uluru being at the top of the list, means learning from each other, respecting each other's cultures and finding innovative yet environmentally friendly ways of seeing and interpreting this iconic Australian landscape.

How might Uluru look in the future? One of the most liking changes for Uluru in the future will see it being a non climbing Australian landmark, the experience for tourists in the future will be to experience Uluru from a visual perspective only. Tourists will see more cultural and natural experiences when they are at Uluru which will replace their climbing experience. The cultural and natural experience will include things like a 5 day hike around the base of the Rock where indigenous stories and cultural values and heritage will be shared with the tourists.

By Evie Dawkins

Credits:

Created with images by flok85 - "ayers rock uluru outback" • charles.bukowsky - "uluru" • rumpleteaser - "Whose watching what?" • wheres_dot - "Walking around Uluru 2"

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