Did you know that over 400 new species were discovered in the Amazon between 2010-2013 alone? This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Professor Andrew Lowe of the Environment Institute says: “Of the estimated 10 million species that exist on our planet, only just over a million have so far been identified and described”.
Lowe will lead a 2.5 million dollar project that uses “DNA barcoding” to rapidly and accurately identify key animal and plant species. He predicts that it would take at least another 2000 years to identify Earth’s remaining species using traditional taxonomy.
“With DNA barcoding, we can vastly accelerate this rate and generate significant scientific and economic benefits.”
The national collaborative project is a partnership with scientists from Kings Park Botanic Garden, CSIRO, James Cook University and the South Australian Museum. Research infrastructure organisation Bioplatforms Australia is project managing the project and will provide access to DNA sequencing infrastructure and genomics and bioinformatics expertise. The project has support also from Fortescue Metals Group and BHP through its Bush Blitz program.
The project will provide value in 5 key areas:
- verifying timber origins to combat illegal timber trading;
- authenticating labelling and geographical origin of fish in the retail marketplace;
- mapping plant biodiversity in the Pilbara to help with mine site environmental impact assessment and restoration management;
- biodiversity discovery and impact assessment of invertebrates that inhabit underground aquifers utilised by mining and farming; and
- generating barcodes for Australia’s orchids to enhance conservation.
“DNA barcoding has significant potential to enhance our understanding of Australian biodiversity and become an essential tool in the environmental assessment process and conservation planning,” says Professor Lowe. “By utilising a genetic rather than morphological marker system, barcoding can help combat illegal trade in endangered and valuable species through more accurate identification and tracking.”
Find out more about the exciting research coming out of The Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity and about this project published on the LeadSA.
Just for fun: check out TIME magazine’s TOP 10 new species of 2013. It will be interesting to see what 2014 has in store!