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Article     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 25(1)

Protecting the innocent: studying short-range endemic taxa enhances conservation outcomes

Mark S. Harvey A B C G , Michael G. Rix A , Volker W. Framenau D A B , Zoë R. Hamilton E B , Michael S. Johnson B , Roy J. Teale E A B , Garth Humphreys E A B and William F. Humphreys A B F

A Department of Terrestrial Zoology, Western Australian Museum, Locked Bag 49, Welshpool DC, Western Australia 6986, Australia.
B School of Animal Biology, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia 6009, Australia.
C Division of Invertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 49th Street, New York, NY 10024-5192, USA; and California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA 94103-3009, USA.
D Phoenix Environmental Sciences Pty Ltd, PO Box 857, Balcatta, Western Australia 6914, Australia.
E Biota Environmental Sciences Pty Ltd, PO Box 155, Leederville, Western Australia 6903, Australia.
F School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia; and Karst Waters Institute, PO Box 4142, Leesburg, VA 20177, USA.
G Corresponding author: Email: mark.harvey@museum.wa.gov.au

Invertebrate Systematics 25(1) 1-10 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/IS11011
Submitted: 18 March 2011  Accepted: 26 May 2011   Published: 14 July 2011


 
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Abstract

A major challenge confronting many contemporary systematists is how to integrate standard taxonomic research with conservation outcomes. With a biodiversity crisis looming and ongoing impediments to taxonomy, how can systematic research continue to document species and infer the ‘Tree of Life’, and still maintain its significance to conservation science and to protecting the very species it strives to understand? Here we advocate a systematic research program dedicated to documenting short-range endemic taxa, which are species with naturally small distributions and, by their very nature, most likely to be threatened by habitat loss, habitat degradation and climate change. This research can dovetail with the needs of industry and government to obtain high-quality data to inform the assessment of impacts of major development projects that affect landscapes and their biological heritage. We highlight how these projects are assessed using criteria mandated by Western Australian legislation and informed by guidance statements issued by the Environmental Protection Authority (Western Australia). To illustrate slightly different biological scenarios, we also provide three case studies from the Pilbara region of Western Australia, which include examples demonstrating a rapid rise in the collection and documentation of diverse and previously unknown subterranean and surface faunas, as well as how biological surveys can clarify the status of species thought to be rare or potentially threatened. We argue that ‘whole of biota’ surveys (that include all invertebrates) are rarely fundable and are logistically impossible, and that concentrated research on some of the most vulnerable elements in the landscape – short-range endemics, including troglofauna and stygofauna – can help to enhance conservation and research outcomes.



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