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April 21, 2021

Research update 2021: Subterranean Fauna Research Program

Closing the knowledge gaps

The Subterranean Fauna Research Program is a great example of how WABSI brings stakeholders together to identify complex issues and enables research collaboration to develop initiatives that specifically address the priority needs of end users. The program continues to generate strong support from industry, government and others, with biodiversity science expertise contributed from multiple disciplines. We invite new partners to engage in leading research that will deliver real world outcomes, increase knowledge and help lift certainty to enable more informed management decisions.”

Professor Owen T Nevin, CEO, WABSI

Western Australia has a particularly diverse subterranean fauna, much of which coincides with two areas subject to mining – the Pilbara and Yilgarn. These areas have become the major focus of subterranean fauna assessment and since the inclusion of subterranean fauna in assessments of environmental impact in the mid-1990s, taxonomic research in Australia on this mainly invertebrate group has grown exponentially. However, remaining knowledge gaps continue to frustrate both environmental regulators and development proponents due to high uncertainty in the decision-making process.

In 2017, The Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute (WABSI) led the development of a research program to improve on the current state of knowledge of subterranean fauna. A series of workshops brought together a broad range of stakeholders from the scientific and resources sector, policy makers, potential funders, and environmental consultants to identify knowledge gaps. There was a clear consensus on key focus areas for research.

We developed the Subterranean Fauna Research Program which reviewed the status of knowledge, outlined research initiatives to close the knowledge gaps and provided an analysis of the benefits of the program. We also established a steering committee comprising members representing the interests of all stakeholders including end users, researchers and policy makers. The committee continues to guide program implementation to ensure research activities specifically address end user needs. This update highlights the progress that has been made from the projects to date.

Some of the broader benefits of this research include:

  • Better environmental outcomes.
  • Improved understanding of ecosystem services such as maintenance of groundwater quality and bioprospecting opportunities.
  • Finding solutions that enable mining to proceed while conserving subterranean fauna, thereby facilitating job creation and increased State revenues.
  • Creating certainty for the wider community by determining where mining may occur and areas where subterranean fauna needs to be conserved.
  • Protection of intrinsic biodiversity values.
  • Enhancing a reputation for world-class expertise in subterranean fauna

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