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Joint Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

&
WA Minister for Environment and Heritage
Judy Edwards

4 September 2001

Launch of Biodiversity of the Southern Carnarvon Basin Book in WA


Six years' research in the southern Carnarvon Basin has found nearly half the ground-dwelling native mammal species are extinct because of introduced predators, soil erosion and vegetation changes.

Researchers used exposed sub-fossil deposits to determine the rate of local extinction and found that 22 of the original 48 species of ground-dwelling native mammals had become extinct in the region since European activity started.

The findings are part of the book 'Biodiversity of the Southern Carnarvon Basin', a six-year summary of the studies, launched today WA Environment and Heritage Minister Judy Edwards and Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill.

Dr Edwards said the book was part of a series of Government-backed biodiversity studies across the State to assess WA's ecosystems. The next study will be in the Pilbara.

"The first comprehensive biological survey of WA's agricultural zone as part of the State Salinity Strategy is also nearing completion and will be published. The Government is committed to completing comprehensive bioregional surveys to establish an inventory of the State's terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity and to identify areas of significance for nature conservation."

Dr Edwards said 'Biodiversity of the Southern Carnarvon Basin' was a collection of 19 research papers and the culmination of WA's most intensive biodiversity survey. It was backed with $30,000 in Commonwealth Government funding.

"Scientists from the Department of Conservation and Land Management, the Western Australian Museum, the University of Western Australia and others were involved in the six-year study," she said.

Senator Hill said that in an area bounded by Minilya, the Murchison River and Gascoyne Junction, the study collected data from 63 dry land and 56 wetland sites.

"The findings show that WA had lost more than most people assumed and highlighted the need to conserve what we can of what remains."

The Commonwealth and State Government has bought approximately 480,000 hectares of pastoral leases in the Carnarvon Basin to turn into conservation reserves. The purchase of the leases were part of the State Government's Gascoyne Murchison Strategy and the Commonwealth's National Reserve System Program of the Natural Heritage Trust.

"The study identified 12 terrestrial communities and eight wetland types that are not in the reserve system," he said.

"The acquisition of pastoral leases will 'fill in' gaps in WA's reserve system and allow a range of ecosystems to be conserved in the Carnarvon Basin. These include wetlands, sandplains, alluvial plains, river frontage, coastal flats, salt lakes and calcrete uplands."

The study was funded through the Department, the WA Museum and the Natural Heritage Trust - the same Commonwealth program that provided money to buy the pastoral leases.

Chapters in 'Biodiversity of the Southern Carnarvon Basin' summarise the region's climate, geoecological features, birds, waterbirds, flora, aquatic invertebrates, scorpions, spiders, reptiles, frogs, ground-dwelling mammals and bats.

Senator Hill said researchers also discovered numerous species that have yet to be named scientifically. These include several plants, reptiles, and numerous invertebrates such as spiders, scorpions and millipedes. Some of these species may be at risk through habitat loss and land degradation, as their ecological requirements had yet to be fully investigated.

Dr Edwards said the book and subsequent publications would be a valuable tool for land managers, people in education, ecotourism operators, shires, councils and others with a specific interest in the region.

A companion guide to the book, summarising the book's findings, is currently being produced and will be distributed widely. The book costs $80 and is available from the Department's Kensington office and the WA Museum bookshop. It can also be ordered online at www.naturebase.net

Media contacts:
Minister Edwards: John Carey (08) 9421 7777
Senator Hill: Belinda Huppatz 0419 258364
CALM: Allan Burbidge (08) 9405 5100
Norm McKenzie (08) 9405 5100

Commonwealth of Australia