Kimberley islands act as a 'biodome'

28 Apr, 2009 01:32 PM
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Environmental scientists hope the islands off the north Kimberley coast could act a protected biodiversity haven similar to the Pauly Shore film "Biodome".

The comic film was set in a dome created a group of scientists who wanted to save the environment and keep it free of outside hazards.

Western Australia's Department of Environment and Conservation has been conducting two-year surveys on 13 islands off the Kimberley and discovered more than double the variety of native species originally thought to be living there.

Among those found is also a snail believed to be of a new genus.

DEC biologists hope the islands may be a way of protecting the species from demise due to the growing threat of cane toads and other problems found on the Kimberley mainland.

"Biodiversity on the mainland Kimberley is under threat from extensive dry season wildfires, feral animals, weeds, soil erosion and the imminent invasion of the cane toad," DEC senior research scientist Lesley Gibson said.

"The islands support populations of plant and animal communities that are in relatively good condition and hence have high conservation value, but little was known before this survey about what plant and animal species occur on the islands.

"The survey is being conducted in the hope that intact ecosystems can be conserved and that in the future the islands could provide a safe haven for threatened species from the mainland."

The department has surveyed from Sir Graham Moore Island in the north to Augustus Island in the south and also plans to investigate a further nine islands this winter.

"We recorded a northern quoll on Adolphus Island, which is a significant record as this species has dramatically declined on the adjacent East Kimberley mainland," Dr Gibson said

The agile wallaby on Adolphus Island and Merten’s water monitor on Augustus Island were also recorded for the first time on Western Australian islands, as well as many species of snails, snakes and frogs.

The survey is also contributing biodiversity information to the State Government’s $9 million Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy and has attracted $2.7 million in Federal Government funding and $4.3 million from the State Government.

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