The unknown microorganisms in our water table will be under the microscope this week, as the Bush Blitz team surveys Bush Heritage’s Carnarvon Station Reserve in central Queensland.
“A dozen scientists from around the country have descended on Carnarvon, 200 kilometres south of Emerald. The reserve includes a river valley flanked by steep escarpments and protects at least 10 threatened species, including the nationally endangered northern quoll,” said Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment.
“On the Carnarvon blitz, there is a particular focus on mysterious underground invertebrates called stygofauna that dwell in the groundwater, a group of species that are largely unknown, but are thought to be a great indicator of healthy habitat.
“The Bush Blitz team is looking for spiders, ants, bees, flies, plants, reptiles and amphibians on the expedition that is being run from 7-17 October.
“Bush Blitz has already discovered more than 700 new species and we know there will be more, as our recent funding boost of an extra $6 million in the Bush Blitz program, matched by BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities, will keep the innovative program running until 2017,” Senator Birmingham said.
Bush Blitz Manager Jo Harding thinks there’s a high chance they’ll find species that are completely new to science.
“I’m really excited about this expedition. We think there’s a good chance of finding new species of flies, ants and stygofauna, as well as providing a wealth of biodiversity data to help Bush Heritage manage the reserve into the future,” Ms Harding said.
Bush Heritage Ecologist, Murray Haseler, said Carnarvon Station Reserve, which adjoins the renowned Carnarvon Gorge National Park, protects a sample of ecosystems that were previously more extensive in this area.
“Bush Heritage’s reserves allow us to understand the condition and function of relatively intact ecosystems,” Mr Haseler said.
“The Bush Blitz will provide us with information about species occurrence and distribution on Carnarvon that is critical to knowing what we have already protected adequately – and where we need to do more to secure a natural place for all species.”
Dr Remko Leijis from the SA Museum is the expedition’s stygofauna expert. He’s excited to get sampling in Carnarvon’s remote and unexplored natural springs.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about what lives far below our feet. These springs are fed by the Great Artesian Basin, so what we find at Carnarvon can give us insight into the water table,” Dr Leijis said.
“As far as I know, this is the first time this region has been sampled for stygofauna, so it’s almost inevitable that we’ll find new species; the potential is exciting!”
Bush Blitz is a species discovery partnership program between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Ecosystems and Earthwatch Australia.
The expedition includes scientists from the Queensland Museum, Australian National Herbarium, University of NSW, Qld Department of Primary Industries and South Australia Museum, working closely with ecologists from Bush Heritage.
On this blitz, scientists will be assisted by BHP Billiton employees, working as research assistants. The employees will be managed by Earthwatch on site, the eighth time BHP employees have participated on a Bush Blitz expedition.
Earthwatch Australia CEO, Professor David McInnes, said the Bush Blitz partnership to discover, document and describe Australia’s unique flora and fauna is providing essential information to help manage and protect some of Australia’s most fragile and precious ecosystems.
“Bush Blitz is a great example of citizen science, where BHP Billiton employees help world-class scientists to conduct their research in the field. These expeditions are life-changing experiences that transform how participants think about science and biodiversity.”
BHP Billiton’s President HSE, Marketing and Technology, Mike Henry said Bush Blitz has a record of species discovery to be immensely proud of.
“BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities is a founding partner of the Bush Blitz program, a partnership that represents engagement, inclusiveness and participation,” Mr Henry said.
“The program is also having a profoundly positive impact on those individuals who have experienced it personally. The opportunity to work alongside Bush Blitz scientists gives BHP Billiton employees the opportunity to bring our value of Sustainability to life.”
For more information about Bush Blitz visit http://www.bushblitz.org.au/