New plant species discovered in new Australian national park


Solanum jobsonii, newly discovered Australian plant species

After sad child abuse news from Australia, now better news.

From ScienceDaily:

New plant species discovered in new national park in Australia

June 28, 2017

Summary: A new species of bush tomato discovered in a recently established national park in Australia provides a compelling argument for the importance of federal investment in science and conservation.

A team of botanists from the US has named a new bush tomato species, based on collections made by their Australian colleagues, during government-funded surveys in a brand new national park.

After looking at collections from biodiversity surveys of a 10,000 km2 area now known as Limmen National Park, Bucknell University biology professor, Chris Martine, decided to form an expedition to relocate and describe a mysterious bush tomato uncovered during the government-sponsored studies.

A year later, Martine and his co-authors, including an undergraduate student, have published the new species in the open access journal PhytoKeys. The discovery offers a powerful case for investing in conservation through park systems at a time when these systems are under threat.

For the team of US scientists, knowing where to go was one challenge, but understanding the landscape in such a remote corner of the Australian Northern Territory and figuring out how to get there was quite another. Martine and his team from Bucknell (undergraduate lead author Mae Lacey and postdoctoral fellow Jason T. Cantley) could not do it without the local assistance and expertise of Peter Jobson, Senior Botanist at the Northern Territory Herbarium in Alice Springs.

To acknowledge the pivotal role of Jobson in the successful search, the new species, Solanum jobsonii, has been named after him.

“Jobson is one of a handful of botanists employed by the Northern Territory government who are tasked with stewarding a vastly diverse flora,” explains Martine. “Not only are many species there of conservation concern, but unknown numbers of species are yet to be found and given names. Those scientists are doing yeoman’s work.”

Martine named a previously discovered species for Ian Cowie, the Curator at the Northern Territory Herbarium in Palmerston, in 2011. Solanum cowiei, a species from Litchfield National Park, was described in a paper appearing also in PhytoKeys.

The scientists hope that the discovery of this latest new species turns a spotlight on the importance of protecting natural areas and supporting the individuals who are charged with their care.

“Notably, the use of trained biodiversity scientists in surveys of the proposed parkland provided masses of data in support of protecting this area as a national treasure,” write the authors in the article. “The discovery of the new species described here, and the potential description of other new forms of biodiversity from Limmen National Park, is a testament to the benefits of not only investing in national parks in Australia and elsewhere, but also investing in parks-based scientific inquiry.”

The new species, a relative of the cultivated eggplant, has been recorded under specific habitat conditions from only four locations in the monsoon tropics of northern Australia. Because of this, Martine and his colleagues have suggested that it be listed as “Vulnerable” as per the Red List Categories and Criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“There are rare and unusual species all over the world, just like this one, that deserve our appreciation and protection”” said Martine. “Luckily, many are already living within the boundaries of conservation areas like state and national parks in Australia, the US, and elsewhere.”

“However, the rise of anti-science and anti-conservation rhetoric in the US, especially, has put federal and state protected lands here at risk,” he said. “It also threatens the rich biodiversity our Founding Fathers celebrated and the American scientific enterprise they held so dear.”

25,000 diving tarantula spiders discovered in Australia


This video is called National Geographic Super Spider – Fascinating Spider Documentary.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Discovery of 25,000 diving tarantulas could prove lucrative for tiny Australian community

The huge cluster of newly-discovered spiders could prove attractive to scientific researchers from across the world

Doug Bolton

Thursday 25 June 2015

A tiny settlement in the sparsely-populated Northern Territory of Australia has been the subject of scientific attention, after it was discovered that a nearby flood plain is home to an infestation of 25,000 tarantulas from a newly-discovered species.

However, rather than this unsettling news making sure that no-one will ever visit the town again, a leading Australian arachnologist believes that this could be good news for the remote community of Maningrada, which is over 300 miles from Darwin, the nearest city.

Dr Robert Raven, a senior curator at the Queensland Museum, believes that the venom of the spiders, which is strong enough to induce vomiting in humans, could be used for medical research purposes.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, he said that “pharmaceutical applications could apply across a broad spectrum.”

The spider, which is commonly called the diving tarantula due to its worrying ability to survive underwater by creating air bubbles, was only discovered in 2006, and the full potential of it as a medical resource has not yet been realised.

The uniquely high concentration of spiders in Maningrada means that it would make the business of finding the spiders and extracting their venom much easier.

Dr Raven said that the normal colony size is only around two or three hundred spiders – around 100 times smaller than the size of the newly-discovered cluster.

The sheer size of the Maningrada group could be very attractive to biologists and medical researchers trying to find out more about the under-researched creatures.

Read more: Giant tarantula discovered in Sri Lanka

Asbestos tarantula on the loose in Cardiff

Brazilian puts tarantulas in his mouth to save rainforest

Dr Raven hopes that the attractiveness of the region to researchers could work in favour of the small community, which is mostly made up of Aboriginal people.

He told ABC News that the intellectual property surrounding the spider belongs to the community.

He said: “This is a resource for the community in a number of ways… and this could flow back into the community eventually to help them manage the parks better.”

He added that he hopes young and strong scientists, capable of handling the harsh conditions, isolation and difficult spiders found in Maningrada, will take up the challenge of finding out more about the mysterious diving tarantula.

Red-backed fairywrens in Australia, new study


This 13 August 2014 video is called Studying Red-backed Fairywrens in Australia.

More about this study is here.

See also Seven Ways of Looking at a Fairywren: Student Research in Australia.

World’s first Ramsar wetland nature reserve celebrates 40th birthday


This video about wetlands is called Ramsar Convention.

From Wildlife Extra:

The world’s first Ramsar Site celebrates 40 years

It was on 8 May 1974, that Australia designated the Cobourg Peninsula in the Northern Territory as the world’s first Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.

The Convention is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. It was negotiated through the 1960s by countries and non-governmental organisations that were concerned at the increasing loss and degradation of wetland habitat for migratory waterbirds. The treaty was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975. It is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a particular ecosystem, and the Convention’s member countries cover all geographic regions of the planet.

The Convention uses a broad definition of the types of wetlands covered in its mission, including lakes and rivers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands and peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, near-shore marine areas, mangroves and coral reefs, and human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans.

The Cobourg Peninsula, a remote and unspoilt wilderness area on the far northern coast of Australia, was recognised 40 years ago for its diversity of wetland habitats, threatened marine species, significant seabird colonies and value as a refuge and breeding site. It also has a fascinating Indigenous, Macassan and European history.

Now known as Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, it is jointly managed by the Arrarrkbi people and the Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory. It was the first reserve in Australia to have a formal joint management arrangement established with indigenous people.

Australia currently has 65 Ramsar Sites across the continent, with an area of 8.3 million hectares, covering coral reefs, coastal lagoons, mangroves, inland rivers, mountain peat bogs and underground caves.

Britain: The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust recently launched its Wetland Manifesto at a reception at the Houses of Parliament. MPs, peers and business leaders heard how protecting our remaining wetlands can help our health, the economy and the public purse: here.

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