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

TASMANIAN RESEARCHERS TO SHED LIGHT ON NEW PLANTS


19 November 1997
(137/97)

Greater knowledge of Australian octopuses, spiders, shrubs and a raft of other species will be the outcome of 52 research projects being funded by the Australian Biological Resources Study.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has announced funding of $1.2 million for 1997-98 for vital taxonomic research into identifying and describing a range of relatively unknown Australian plants, animals and micro-organisms.

Two projects totalling $29 400 will be conducted by the Tasmanian Herbarium.

"More than 75 per cent of Australia's species remain a mystery because they are yet to be studied in detail.

"Through this national grants program, important support is provided for taxonomists to gather, synthesise and produce critical inventories of our plants and animals, particularly for species that are still completely unknown.

"Researchers at the Tasmanian Herbarium will update a guide for students to the flora of Tasmania, to include some plant species new to science, and will also study the Cunoniaceae family of tree and shrubs which covers a number of timber species.

"Among the other projects, the University of Melbourne receives $37 000 to conduct an important study of at least 60 species of octopuses in Australian waters, including identifying current and potential fisheries species.

"The Australian Biological Resources Study plays a critical role in helping Australians better understand the natural environment, laying the groundwork for improved conservation strategies and potential nature-based industries.

"Apart from helping us better understand Australia's biodiversity, this work will add to the scientific basis on which large-scale conservation projects, such as those being supported by the Natural Heritage Trust, are based."

A list of some of the projects, including those for Tasmania, is attached.

Contact: Matt Brown (Senator Hill) 02 6277 7640 or 0419 693 515
Liz Visher (Australian Biological Resources Study) 02 6250 9554
19 November 1997 137/97

Australian Biological Resources Study
1998 Research Projects

Tasmania

A Flora of Tasmania (Dicotyledons)
Organisation: Tasmanian Herbarium
Amount: $5 600
Contact: Dennis Morris and Winifred Curtis
The project will revise the now outdated Students' Flora of Tasmania. This Flora will identify Tasmanian plants taking account of changes in nomenclature, and will include naturalised introduced plants and plants new to science.

Systematic Studies in Australian Cunoniaceae

Organisation: Tasmanian Herbarium
Amount: $23 800
Contact: Andrew Rozefelds
The Cunoniaceae are a family of trees and shrubs including a number of timber species and ornamentals. This Southern Hemisphere family occurs in Australia, the Pacific area, South America, South Africa and Madagascar. Their distribution makes the Cunoniaceae an important family in understanding the evolutionary history of the Southern Hemisphere land masses. The project will study the relationships between genera in the family, particularly in the Australasian and Pacific regions.

Contact:
Liz Visher
Environment Australia
02 6250 9554

Excerpt from national list

Taxonomy of Benthic Octopuses of Australian Waters (Family Octopodidae)
Organisation: University of Melbourne, Department of Zoology
Amount: $37 000
Contact: Mark Norman
There has been little research in the past into Australian octopuses, but recent studies have found that Australia has the highest diversity of octopuses in the world. They range from pygmies the size of a thumbnail to 10 kg animals with arm spans of over three metres. Sixty species have been recognised in the past five years, of which 44 are new to science. Thirteen species, including seven of the newly identified species, are harvested either directly through pot fisheries or as bycatch in crayfish and trawl fisheries. Resolution of the taxonomy of these top-level predators is essential to identify species, including current and potential fisheries species, and to determine distributions. Such research can also provide the biological data crucial for effective protection and sustainable harvests.

Systematics and Biogeography of the Australian Lychas Scorpions (Scorpionida: Buthidae)

Organisation: Curtin University of Technology
Amount: $13 000
Contact: Associate Professor Jonathan Majer
The Lychas species are scorpions which are quite common in most parts of Australia. People who are occasionally stung by these scorpions usually report local pain. However, the death of at least one child has been blamed on a member of this type of scorpion. This project will study as many as 30 new species of Australian Lychas, and the results will have significant ecological and medicinal importance.

Systematic Classification of Species of the Genus Culicoides from the Australasian Region

Organisation: CSIRO, Division of Entomology
Amount: $3 000
Contact: Alan Dyce
Culicoides, commonly known as biting midges or sand flies, are those minute blood-sucking flies so troublesome to people along our seashores. Some species in the group also transmit virus diseases prevalent in our livestock and native animals. The family tree of the Australasian sand flies has never been studied. Nearly half of the local species remain undescribed, including some prevalent pests. This study aims at a better understanding of that family tree as a basis for accurate recognition of the pests, leading to improved prospects for their control.
Commonwealth of Australia