A hotspot of arid zone subterranean biodiversity: The robe valley in western australia

Huon L. Clark, Bruno A. Buzatto, Stuart A. Halse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Knowledge of subterranean fauna has mostly been derived from caves and streambeds, which are relatively easily accessed. In contrast, subterranean fauna inhabiting regional groundwa-ter aquifers or the vadose zone (between surface soil layers and the watertable) is difficult to sample. Here we provide species lists for a globally significant subterranean fauna hotspot in the Robe Valley of the Pilbara region, Western Australia. This fauna was collected from up to 50 m below ground level using mining exploration drill holes and monitoring wells. Altogether, 123 subterranean species were collected over a distance of 17 km, comprising 65 troglofauna and 58 stygofauna species. Of these, 61 species were troglobionts and 48 stygobionts. The troglofauna occurs in small voids and fissures in mesas comprised mostly of an iron ore formation, while the stygofauna occurs in the alluvium of a river floodplain. The richness of the Robe Valley is not a localized aberration, but rather reflects the richness of the arid Pilbara region. While legislation in Western Australia has recognized the importance of subterranean fauna, mining is occurring in the Robe Valley hotspot with conditions of environmental approval that are designed to ensure species persistence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number482
JournalDiversity
Volume13
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

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