These images show Wyperfeld National Park, Victoria, in southeastern Australia. The park is native shrubland—the Australian “bush”—and appears in the Landsat images as dark red. Grazing land appears pink, and cropland is a green-yellow pattern. Fires occur in the park almost every year, leaving huge fire scars: bright, bared earth that quickly regrows.
This area’s dry climate lies between wet coastal forest and interior desert. Within these images, the Wimmera River flows from the wetter south to the drier north, where it dies in a chain of lakes. In these Landsat images, the southernmost lake (Lake Hindmarsh) is always filled, the northernmost (Lake Agnes) is always dry, and the middle lake (Lake Albacutya) is wet in 1975 but dry thereafter, having last filled from 1974 to 1982.
Before European settlement, this region was near-forest—shrubs and small trees growing in varying density—with an understory of shrubs or grass. From the 1840s on, much of this bush was burned off to clear land for farming. Forested area (including shrubland) decreased in this region of Australia from an estimated 90% in 1869 to only 30–40% by 1987. Wheat yields in this region were high, so people tried farming even the areas with poorer or sandier soils. Crop failure in these sandy areas gave Wyperfeld the deceptive name “the Big Desert.” These sandy areas can be seen in the Landsat images as sand ridges in the park and as pink areas outside the parks, representing grazing land.
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Thanks to David Martin and the rest of the staff of Wyperfeld National Park for their assistance.