Incorporating terrestrial invertebrates in conservation planning
: diversity, distribution and cross-taxon congruence in an Australian tropical savanna landscape

  • Stefanie Oberprieler

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    Invertebrates constitute 80% of species diversity as well as the majority of species lost under the current global extinction crisis. Still, they continue to be largely overlooked in conservation planning, primarily owing to their vast diversity and the lack of information on their distribution patterns. This thesis aims to improve our understanding of terrestrial invertebrate diversity and distribution and to identify practical and robust ways of documenting their diversity patterns in the context of conservation planning.

    It uses a collection developed from three decades of extensive surveys across Australia’s Monsoonal Tropics to document high levels of regional endemism and remarkable levels of diversity in the ecologically dominant terrestrial invertebrate group, ants. This includes the first comprehensive species compilation and biogeographical analysis of a large tropical region, as well as the use of an integrative approach to species delimitation to reveal extensive unrecognised diversity in six ant taxa currently recognised as single species occurring throughout the Monsoonal Tropics. It then uses data on 12 invertebrate families (comprising ants, beetles, flies and spiders) sampled in pitfall traps from 78 sites in the contiguous Kakadu and Nitmiluk National Parks to address the effectiveness of the ‘umbrella’ value of vertebrates, simplified invertebrate sampling and the selection of representative taxa for targeted assessment of invertebrate diversity. It found that vertebrates were poor ‘umbrellas’ for invertebrates, that invertebrate by-catch from vertebrate pitfall traps provided useful information on patterns of diversity and distribution for some invertebrate groups, and that ants, carabid and tenebrionid beetles and zodariid spiders were collectively the most effective target taxa for representing the broad range of invertebrate spatial patterns.

    These findings have two important implications. First, they highlight the very significant but under-appreciated conservation value of the invertebrate fauna of Australia’s Monsoonal Tropics. Second, they demonstrate that conservation planning for all biodiversity requires the incorporation of invertebrates into faunal surveys and that this is highly feasible.
    Date of AwardMar 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorKeith Mcguinness (Supervisor), Alan Andersen (Supervisor) & Craig Moritz (Supervisor)

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