Carnarvon Bush Blitz unearths new discoveries

Sunday 21 December, 2014
Barbara Baera examins a spider found in one of her pitfall tralsBarbara Baera examines a spider found in one of her pitfall traps. Photo Alison Wilson

In October a team of scientists from the national Bush Blitz program joined us to explore for new species on Carnarvon Reserve in Queensland.

The national Bush Blitz program – a partnership between the Australian Government, Earthwatch Australia and BHP Billiton – aims to discover new species.

Bush Blitz Program Manager, Jo Harding, points out that 75% of Australia’s biodiversity remains undiscovered.

It’s the small stuff – insects, soil organisms, fungi and bacteria – in which there’s still much to be discovered and so it proved during a ten‑day intensive survey of our Carnarvon Station Reserve, 200km south of Emerald in central Queensland during October.

Hundreds of flora and fauna samples were collected including many new, undescribed species. The survey team included 12 of Australia’s top scientists, eight volunteers from BHP Billiton’s Sustainable Communities Program as well as support staff.

Native violaThis native viola was previously not known to occur on the reserve. Photo Alison Wilson

“A property like Carnarvon does amazing work to conserve what they have, but if they don’t know what they have they can’t make those decisions,” said Jo.

Hundreds of flora and fauna samples were collected including many new, undescribed species.

Overall, participants were impressed at the diversity of species on Carnarvon and many were very surprised by the difference in species recorded here and on neighbouring National Parks to the east and north.

“It’s rewarding to see different species being recorded, despite similar surveys being done there,” Mr Haseler said.

“It’s an indication that we’re making a real contribution to the national reserve estate.”

Dr Remko Leijis chasing a beeDr Remko Leijis chases a bee. Photo Alison Wilson

Findings from the exercise will help Bush Heritage gain a much better understanding of the biodiversity on Carnarvon, and lead to refinements to reserve management in the future.

Highlights

Dr John Stanisic, Curator of Molluscs at the Queensland Museum for 26 years, found about 20 species of land snail, including eight new undescribed species. Their greatest threat is fire so mapping habitat and managing fire is vital.

Plants previously unknown on the reserve, Philydrum lanuginosum (Frogsmouth) and a species of Viola were collected for the Herbarium in Canberra.

Andrew Amey shows the Wilson girls a Bandy Bandy snake found near Elbow damAndrew Amey shows the Wilson girls a Bandy Bandy snake found near Elbow dam. Bandy bandys feed exclusively on blind snakes. They're poisonous but produce little venom and aren't aggressive. Photo by Alison Wilson

Dr Christine Lambkin is Curator of Entomology at the Queensland Museum. Her husband Noel Starick, also an entomologist and Susan Wright, Queensland Museum’s Entomology Collection Manager, headed up the team focused on flies, dragonflies and ants.

Forty five species of flies were sampled, representing at least 15 of the 100 families of fly species known in Australia.

About 35 species of bees were collected by Dr Remko Leijs from the South Australian Museum. Carnarvon appears to be the western most limit for a number of these species including the green carpenter bee (Xylocopaaerates), which has a very healthy population on reserve.

More than 40 species of spiders from 20 different families were collected by Queensland Museum’s Dr Barbara Baehr. There were six specimens collected from the large Mygalomorphae spiders, four ant‑mimicking spiders, four ant‑eating spiders and a wolf‑spider. A very rare wall‑crab spider was also recorded.

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