Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Listing Advice on Thaumatoperla alpina (Alpine Stonefly) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2011al) [Listing Advice].
 
Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Thaumatoperla alpina (Alpine Stonefly) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2011am) [Conservation Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, half of the known populations occur on protected land within the Alpine National Park and the proposed conservation advice provides sufficient direction to mitigate threats at this stage (14/03/2011).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (105) (14/03/2011) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2011g) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
VIC:Vulnerable Victorians. DSE's threatened species recovery projects February 2006 - Alpine Stonefly (Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (Vic. DSE), 2003at) [Report].
State Listing Status
VIC: Listed as Threatened (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (Victoria): February 2014)
Non-statutory Listing Status
VIC: Listed as Vulnerable (Advisory List of Threatened Invertebrate Fauna in Victoria: 2009)
Scientific name Thaumatoperla alpina [25289]
Family Eustheniidae:Plecoptera:Insecta:Arthropoda:Animalia
Species author Burns & Neboiss, 1957
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Thaumatoperla alpina

Common name: Alpine Stonefly

Conventionally accepted as Thaumatoperla alpina (AFD 2010).

The largest of the Australian stoneflies, the Alpine Stonefly's final instar (growth stage) nymphs reach 49 mm in length, excluding antennae and cerci (the paired appendage on the rear-most segment). Early stages of the nymphs have greenish gills and a green abdomen. Larger specimens are green-brown in colour, with a red tinge on the pronotum (the upper surface of the first thoracic segment). There can be some patterning on the pronotum (dorsal sclerite (hard part) of the prothorax), and the abdominal gills are creased (Hynes 1978 cited in TSSC 2011am). Adults are similar in size to the final instar nymphs, with light green to yellow-grey abdomens and blue-black wings. The pronotum and leg sockets around the thorax are orange to orange-red. There is a large black spot in the centre of the pronotum. Although they have wings, the adults are largely flightless (Brittain 1990 cited in TSSC 2011am).

The Alpine Stonefly is endemic to the Bogong High Plains in the Kiewa River catchment; specifically the Mt McKay and Mt Fainter areas in first order streams (unbranched tributaries) at high altitudes (Crowther et al. 2008; McKay et al. 2005; Vic. DSE 2003at). The species is known from 12 sites that are separated by natural and anthropogenic barriers. Six of these sites occur in the Alpine National Park, five within Falls Creek Alpine Resort and one within state forest (TSSC 2011am).

The Alpine Stonefly inhabits high altitude areas at least 760 m above sea level, including areas above the treeline. The nymphs are most commonly found in steep, stony, cool streams, often below a cascade of water underneath cobblestones or detritus (Vic. DSE 2003at). Narrower streams of less than 1–2.5 m width are favoured and typically 1 m wide and around 15 cm deep (McKay et al. 2005). Nymphs are often found under bigger boulders or stones at these sites. When the nymphs have reached adulthood, they leave the water and inhabit the rocks and vegetation beside the streams (Crowther et al. 2008). They are often found on the Silky Daisy (Celmisia sericophylla), a plant that is endemic to the Bogong High Plains (Vic. DSE 2003at).

Important habitat indicators for the Alpine Stonefly include streams with slower flows, narrower width (<1–2.5 m) and high oxygen content in the water, a vegetation structure of open eucalypt or alpine treeless heath (but not alpine grassland) and the presence of mayflies (Mirawara spp. and Archeophylax spp.) (Bryce 2001 cited in Crowther et al. 2008). First order streams within the Kiewa River catchment, higher than 760 m above sea level have been identified as important habitat for the the species (TSSC 2011am).

The Alpine Stonefly spends approximately three years in a nymph stage where it undergoes 14 development (instar) changes (McKay et al. 2005). They emerge as adults between February and May and live for another two months until the first snow falls in the region. An emerged adult is at sexual maturity. Females deposit egg masses into the water, where they slowly break apart (Hynes 1976). The timing of egg development is temperature dependent, taking at least four months under laboratory conditions. Successful development of eggs only occurs within a temperature range of 5–15 °C (Brittain 1997). Alpine Stonefly eggs take approximately 18 weeks to hatch (July–August period) (Hynes & Hynes 1975).

Omnivorous, the Alpine Stonefly ingests both animal and plant material, including nymphs and larvae of other insect species, plant detritus, lichen, diatoms and algae (Sephton & Hynes 1983; Vic. DSE 2003at). Nymphs are omnivores, eating both plant and animal material. In the absence of introduced Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) the nymph is considered to be the top in-stream predator (Bryce 2001 cited in TSSC 2011al).

Flight capabilities of the Alpine Stonefly are restricted. Therefore, adults are generally found on riparian vegetation immediately beside the stream from which they have emerged. The adults are very cryptic, blending well into surrounding vegetation. They are often found on the leaves of Silky Daisy (Celmisia sericophylla), Epacris glacialis, Mountain Beard-heath (Leucopogon suaveolens) and, occasionally, on Sphagnum moss in alpine bogs. After dark, adults move down branches towards the base of plants, where they remain until morning, presumably to insulate themselves against low night-time temperatures (Bryce 2001 cited in TSSC 2010am).

The Alpine Stonefly could be confused with the stonefly Eusthenia venosa, as it is very similar in its ecology and life history and is widely distributed (Vic. DSE 2003at). Details of the differences are unavailable.

Fish predation

Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and Brown Trout (Salmo trutta) have been recorded in the east and west branches of the Kiewa River at altitudes in which the Alpine Stonefly occurs. It is likely that predation and competition with Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout is a threat to Alpine Stonefly nymphs at some sites (Crowther 2010 pers. comm. cited in TSSC 2010am). It is likely that the species' distribution has been restricted as a result of past trout presence in previously suitable habitat. However, due to a lack of specific studies, there are no quantitative data to determine the past or future impact of trout predation on the species (TSSC 2010am).

Degradation or destruction of habitat

Ski resort expansion has been identified as a major potential threat to the species. Discharge or drainage of water from ski resort developments and roads has the potential to cause species mortality through contamination of alpine streams. Snow making occurs extensively within the Falls Creek resort area where four populations of Alpine Stonefly are known to occur. Disturbance to in-stream habitat through changes in the chemical composition of the water from snow making is currently a potential threat to these populations (Brittain 1997).

Timber harvesting is a potential threat to the four populations located within state forest. Currently, timber harvesting occurs within 10 km of these four populations. Timber harvesting could affect the species as a result of increased sedimentation in streams, increased water temperature and possibly the removal of riparian habitat (TSSC 2010am).

Fire

Increased fire intervals or intensity may result in increased stream sediment from ground runoff and a decline in water quality, the loss of streamside vegetation (and associated increase in water temperature) and an increase in the adult stonefly's risk of exposure to low night time temperatures and predation (Bryce 2001 cited in TSSC 2010am; Crowther et al. 2008). The species has been found at previously surveyed sites post two major fire events in 2003 and 2006, suggesting the extended nymph phase may protect many individuals from fire impacts (Crowther et al. 2008).

Adult Alpine Stoneflies lives for two months following maturation and the species is susceptible to fire during this period. Fires that impact habitat as the adult emerges from their final nymph stage (in April) can deplete the breeding population and lead to its decline (McKay et al. 2005).

Climate change

The restricted habitat range of the Alpine Stonefly, and its limited dispersal ability, may reduce the species ability to withstand increases in water temperature or decreases in stream flow associated with climate change. Climate change is also predicted to reduce snow fall by 10–40% and this may see the loss of refuge habitats for the species (CSIRO 2006 cited in TSSC 2011am).

Minister's reason for recovery plan decision

There should not be a recovery plan for this species as half of the known populations occur on protected land within the Alpine National Park and the proposed conservation advice provides sufficient direction to mitigate threats at this stage.

Threat abatement actions

McKay and colleagues (2005) and Crowther and colleagues (2008) studied Alpine Stonefly populations after fire events, with reference to other threats to the species. Threat abatement actions these two studies recommended include:

  • Ensure vegetation within 10 m of streams and the distribution area of the Alpine Stonefly is protected in the Kiewa River catchment.
  • Use the same measures prescribed for Thaumatoperla flaveola in state forest.
  • Review and update the existing policy that prescribes streamside vegetation protection zones associated with timber harvesting in state forest areas in the north-east, to include prescribed protection zones for Alpine Stonefly.
  • Ensure skiing and other ski resort activities do not encroach on the streams identified as Alpine Stonefly habitat (i.e. McKay Creek sites).
  • Ensure that water quality in streams within the distribution area of Alpine Stonefly and T. flaveola is protected (i.e. high dissolved oxygen levels close to 100% saturation, pH close to 7 and water temperatures close to average for the time of year). This will be more likely to occur if the streamside vegetation is protected and disturbance through trampling eliminated.
  • Ensure streams identified as having Alpine Stonefly populations are trout free.
  • Further surveys of streams outside the Bogong and Buller - Stirling alpine areas may be needed to confidently map the distribution of Thaumatoperla, including the Mount Hotham area.
  • Annual assessments of currently known Alpine Stonefly populations should be undertaken to determine distribution changes, and the impacts of fire and climate change on the nymph and adult stage.
  • Undertake research to assess sediment loads in streams identified as Alpine Stonefly habitat.
  • Undertake research on the impacts of increased nutrient loads in streams where grey water has been used for snow making within the Falls Creek ski resort, and the affect of these nutrients on Alpine Stonefly populations.
  • Undertake research into the adaptive significance of adult colouration.
  • Undertake laboratory diet studies of adult Alpine Stonefly to determine the natural diet.
  • Undertake dietary studies of Mountain Pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus) and determine whether they eat Alpine Stonefly.
  • Identify threats of predation on adult Alpine Stonefly.

Commonwealth conservation advice

Refer to the Commonwealth conservation advice (TSSC 2011am) for information on research priorities and recovery priority actions to mitigate threats including habitat loss, disturbance and modification, animal predation and fire. Raising awareness of the species is also encouraged in the Advice.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Commonwealth Listing Advice on Thaumatoperla alpina (Alpine Stonefly) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2011al) [Listing Advice].
Biological Resource Use:Logging and Wood Harvesting:Habitat loss, modification and degradation due to timber harvesting Commonwealth Listing Advice on Thaumatoperla alpina (Alpine Stonefly) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2011al) [Listing Advice].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Climate Change and Severe Weather:Climate change altering atmosphere/hydrosphere temperatures, rainfall patterns and/or frequency of severe weather events Commonwealth Listing Advice on Thaumatoperla alpina (Alpine Stonefly) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2011al) [Listing Advice].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat Shifting and Alteration:Habitat modification, destruction and alteration due to changes in land use patterns Commonwealth Listing Advice on Thaumatoperla alpina (Alpine Stonefly) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2011al) [Listing Advice].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Recreational Activities:Soil disturbance and/or trampling due to bushwalking Commonwealth Listing Advice on Thaumatoperla alpina (Alpine Stonefly) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2011al) [Listing Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Oncorhynchus mykiss (Rainbow Trout) Commonwealth Listing Advice on Thaumatoperla alpina (Alpine Stonefly) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2011al) [Listing Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Salmo trutta (Brown Trout) Commonwealth Listing Advice on Thaumatoperla alpina (Alpine Stonefly) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2011al) [Listing Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Alteration of hydrological regimes and water quality Commonwealth Listing Advice on Thaumatoperla alpina (Alpine Stonefly) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2011al) [Listing Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Commonwealth Listing Advice on Thaumatoperla alpina (Alpine Stonefly) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2011al) [Listing Advice].
Pollution:Pollution:Changes to water and sediment flows leading to erosion, siltation and pollution Commonwealth Listing Advice on Thaumatoperla alpina (Alpine Stonefly) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2011al) [Listing Advice].
Residential and Commercial Development:Commercial and Industrial Areas:Recreational, commercial and industrial development Commonwealth Listing Advice on Thaumatoperla alpina (Alpine Stonefly) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2011al) [Listing Advice].

Australian Faunal Directory (AFD) (2010). Australian Faunal Directory. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/online-resources/fauna/afd/home. [Accessed: 30-May-2010].

Brittain, J.E. (1997). Egg development in Thaumatoperla, an endangered stonefly genus, endemic to the Australian Alps (Plecoptera: Eustheniidae). In: Landolt, P. & M. Sartori, eds. Ephemeroptera and Plecoptera: Biology-Ecology-Systematics. Page(s) 30-33. Fribourg: MTL.

Crowther, D., S. Lyon & P. Papas (2008). The response of threatened aquatic invertebrates to the 2006 fire in north-eastern Victoria. [Online]. Technical report Series No. 179. Heidleberg, Victoria: Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Department of Sustainability and Environment. Available from: http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/112631/ARI_Technical_Report_179_-_The_response_of_threatened_aquatic_invertebrates_to_the_2006_fire_in_north-eastern_Victoria.pdf.

Hynes, H.B.N. & M.E. Hynes (1975). The life histories of many of the stoneflies (Plecoptera) of south-eastern mainland Australia. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research. 26(2):113-153.

McKay, S., C. Bryce & P. Pappas (2005). Impacts of fire on the distribution of a predatory stonefly (Eustheniidae: Thaumatoperla alpina) in the Bogong alpine region. [Online]. Technical Report Series No.155. Freshwater Ecology, Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research. Melbourne: Department of Sustainability and Environment; Wodonga, Victoria: La Trobe University. Available from: http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/105446/ARI_Technical_Report_155_-_Alpine_stonefly_and_the_2003_fires_in_north_east_Victoria.pdf.

Sephton, D.H. & H.B.N. Hynes (1983). Food and mouthpart morphology of the nymphs of several Australian Plecoptera. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research. 34(6):893-908.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2011al). Commonwealth Listing Advice on Thaumatoperla alpina (Alpine Stonefly). [Online]. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Canberra, ACT: Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/25289-listing-advice.pdf.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2011am). Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Thaumatoperla alpina (Alpine Stonefly). [Online]. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Canberra, ACT: Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/25289-conservation-advice.pdf.

Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (Vic. DSE) (2003at). Vulnerable Victorians. DSE's threatened species recovery projects February 2006 - Alpine Stonefly. [Online]. Available from: http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/103391/Alpine_Stonefly.pdf.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Thaumatoperla alpina in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Sun, 20 Apr 2014 07:57:24 +1000.