Highlights from Carnarvon Bush Blitz

about  Carnarvon Station 
on 18 Oct 2014 

All is now quiet on Carnarvon Station Reserve, the last of the goodbyes reluctantly completed. I’m witness to the cavalcade of vehicles as they drive down through Carnarvon’s Channin Creek for the last time. The vehicles laden with hundreds of valuable little treasures after the past week’s Bush Blitz biodiversity survey.

Hundreds of flora and fauna samples have been collected including many new, undescribed species. The ten days of scientific exploration has been aimed at developing a better understanding of the biodiversity within this section of Australia’s national network of protected areas. Our 21st century pioneers included 12 of Australia’s top scientists, 8 volunteers from BHP Billiton’s Sustainable Communities Program plus support staff. 

Spiders provided much curiosity for many of the participants as well as a very special new friendship for our youngest daughter Charlotte. More than 40 species of spiders were collected by Queensland Museum’s Dr Barbara Baehr including 20 families of spiders, some very rare like the wall-crab spider. Barbara managed to collect 6 specimens of some of the large Mygalomorphae spiders, 4 ant-mimicking spiders, 4 ant-eating spiders and a wolf-spider. Many, if not all of these, are probably undescribed species.

The ancient shrimp like stygofauna provided some anticipation for leading stygofauna expert Dr Remko Leijs when his samples were only found in the last few days. Several good populations were collected though including a new species at Lady Spring on the eastern side of Carnarvon. These blind amphipods complete their whole lifecycle in ground water aquifers with each habitat usually containing its own individual species. 

About 35 species of bees were also collected by Remko, providing knowledge that Carnarvon appears to be the western most limit for a number of these species including the green carpenter bee (Xylocopa aerates), which has a very healthy population on Carnarvon. Remko is based at the South Australian Museum.

The reptile and frogs collection included a legless lizard, which is probably a Delma torquate according to Dr Andrew Amey, Collection Manager of Amphibians and Reptiles at the Queensland Museum. The legless lizard is listed as vulnerable due to its restricted and patchy distribution. If confirmed, this would be the first record from Carnarvon Station and perhaps the whole Carnarvon region. Also as part of the 36 species of reptiles and frogs, 2 specimens of the worm-lizard Anomalopus leuckartii were collected. The first tissue sample from the Carnarvon area should help untangle the biogeography of this species.

Heather Janetzki was in charge of the mammal collection for the Blitz. Heather, too, was representing the Queensland Museum and collected a diverse range of mammal samples including the eastern horse-shoe bat. This find will help us extend our knowledge of the bat’s known distribution range.

Many thrips were collected - 130 tubes, which equates to about 6 to 12 months of lab work for Desley Tree from Queensland’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries. Desley has been on many collecting trips in her career and says Carnarvon has, by far, the greatest diversity of thrips she's ever seen.

Two new plant species were collected by Australian National Herbarium staff Bronwyn Collins and Emma Toms. The undescribed native violet Viola and the Frogsmouth Phylidrum specimens have also left for Canberra. 

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: 45 species of flies were sampled, which represents at least 15 of the 100 families known in Australia. This included a pair of male and female stiletto flies copulating, which will now allow Christine to precisely describe this species. The group also managed to collect some wasp-mimicking march flies thought to feed on nectar - up until they bit one of the participants!

The original 6 new land snail species found went up to 8 by the time Dr John Stanasic completed his work. These were collected from just 4 survey sites.

Anna Namyatova from the University of New South Wales spent her stint on Carnarvon gathering up samples of true bugs (Hemiptera). The true bug fauna on Carnarvon is also highly diverse and extremely species-rich according to Anna.

Overall, participants were amazed at the diversity of species on Carnarvon and many were very surprised by the diversity in species between here and neighbouring Carnarvon Gorge National Park. These findings from the past ten days will help Bush Heritage gain a much better understanding of the biodiversity on Carnarvon, and lead to refinements to reserve management in the future.

So, besides feeling a little poignant, as I usually do after saying good-bye to so many of our inspirational visitors to Carnarvon, I can’t help but feel incredibly privileged for the extraordinary childhood we’re able to provide our three daughters as part of our custodial role on this special part of Australian bush we call home.