Survey to shed light on Pilbara aquatic fauna

A biological survey of claypans in the Fortescue catchment is unveiling information about rare aquatic invertebrates, found nowhere else in the world.

Ephemeral wetland with waterbirds, Mulga Downs Station

Ephemeral wetland with waterbirds, Mulga Downs Station

The survey, funded by Pilbara Corridors through the Australian Government, is addressing gaps in ecosystem knowledge which exist in the central Fortescue catchment between Millstream National Park and to the Eastern boundary of Mulga Downs Station.

Program Manager (Pilbara Corridors) Ian Cotton said the biological survey of ephemeral wetlands on claypans in the Fortescue catchment will assist with conservation planning and management to reduce threats to biodiversity in the Pilbara bioregion.

“A fifth of aquatic fauna species found in the Pilbara are found nowhere else, and improving knowledge of their part in ecological systems, the threats to these systems and effects on fauna occurrence is crucial,” he said.

Mr Cotton said that while biological surveys had been conducted since 1975, the Biodiversity Survey of the Pilbara Region of Western Australia 2002-2007 identified gaps in knowledge about ephemeral wetlands, in particular the claypans which existed in the central Fortescue catchment which were partially surveyed at the time.

The survey will collect samples of aquatic invertebrates and endemic ephemeral wetland plants, covering approximately 20 representative ephemeral wetlands claypans.

To date, a team of scientists led by Dr. Adrian Pinder from the Department of Parks and Wildlife have undertaken 19 surveys in the target area. Based on initial findings there are plans to expand the survey further east, across the catchment to further our understanding of wetland resilience and the maintenance of wetland function.

Mr Cotton said knowing more about the ecosystem will enable better plan to enhance and conserve endemic aquatic and riparian flora and fauna.

“It will also enable improved catchment scale soil health and hydrological function and a reduction in threats to biodiversity,” he said.