10 July 2014
The first interactive identification key to the freshwater invertebrates of Campbell Island (McMurtrie, Sinton & Winterbourn, 2014) have just been published online by EOS Ecology.
The key is just one of the outputs from a multi-disciplinary research expedition held as part of the Campbell Island Bicentennial Expedition in the summer of 2010/11, run by the 50º South Trust.
Shelley McMurtrie, principal scientist for EOS Ecology said that the sampling of Campbell Island’s aquatic habitats during the expedition was the most comprehensive programme ever carried out. EOS Ecology staff then used the 200-plus benthic aquatic invertebrate samples they collected to establish a specialised identification key for the aquatic species found.
“Working with Professor Mike Winterbourn of University of Canterbury and taxonomists from around the world, we’ve been able to describe 36 taxa in the key and associated information sheets. Out of this work we have already had a new oligochaete species (M. mcmurtrieae) described, new distribution records, and other possible new species pending confirmation via DNA work,” says McMurtrie.
“There is a very high diversity of aquatic oligochaetes (earthworms). We have only had 2% of the oligochaetes identified and already there are seventeen different taxa, so there is a great potential for more new species or new records for the island. They do not form part of the identification key yet, as we will need more funding to go through the almost 9000 oligochaetes we found in the samples.”
McMurtrie emphasises that all new knowledge of our world, even in far-flung places such as the Subantarctics, helps build the bigger picture of life on earth.
“Isolation, climate, the landscape, and species interactions have all played a part in shaping these aquatic habitats.”
“While many of the species are only found on Campbell Island, some were the same as those found on mainland New Zealand, such as the Oxyethira caddisfly, despite the 700 km of southern oceans between the two,” she said.
“Campbell Island is a special place, with lots of plants and animals completely unique to the island. Understanding threatened ecosystems and the species they contain enables better conservation strategies to be implemented. The island is worthy of the best level of protection we can provide.”
The key was made possible with funding support from Terrestrial and Freshwater Biodiversity Information System (TFBIS) Programme (TFBIS No. 278). The TFBIS Programme is funded by the Government to help to achieve the goals of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy, and is administered by the Department of Conservation.