, Volume 543, Issue 1, pp 1-24

Occurrence of aquatic invertebrates of the wheatbelt region of Western Australia in relation to salinity

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Abstract

The wheatbelt region of Western Australia has been extensively cleared of indigenous vegetation for agriculture and is now severely affected by dryland salinity. Wetlands that were once freshwater are now saline and others are under threat, as are the animals and plants that inhabit them. Rising groundwater is also affecting the many naturally saline playas. To provide a framework for setting conservation priorities in this region a biological survey was undertaken, including sampling of aquatic invertebrates at 230 wetlands. In this paper, we have used data from the survey to summarise occurrence of species in relation to salinity. Total species richness at a wetland showed no response to salinity below 4.1 g l−1 and then declined dramatically as salinity increased. When halophilic species were excluded from consideration, species richness was found to decline from 2.6 g l−1. These patterns are compared to previous studies of richness-salinity relationships. There is some evidence that the freshwater invertebrate fauna of the wheatbelt may be comparatively salt tolerant, with 46% of freshwater species collected at salinities above 3 g l−1 and 17% above 10 g l−1, though these proportions differed between various invertebrate groups. While this tolerance will provide a buffer against the effects of mild salinisation, many species are at risk of regional extinction as salinisation becomes more widespread.