Professor Andrew Lowe leads new 2.5m DNA Barcoding Project

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!

International Day of Biological Diversity 2014

International Day of Biological Diversity 2014

The United Nations have proclaimed May 22 as International Day of Biological Diversity, (IDBD) to help increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.


IDB2014 Poster

The theme this year is “islands”. Island comprise unique, irreplaceable ecosystems, often with many species found nowhere else on earth. One-tenth of the world’s population live on an island, comprising some 600 million islanders. The conservation of the unique ecosystems are paramount to the livelihood, economy, well-being and cultural identity of these people.

The Environment Institute is involved with important work to monitor and help reduce the rapid rate of biodiversity decline around the world.

Presented here is research by Associate Professor Phill Cassey and the Invasion Ecology group which focuses on Australia’s third largest island, Kangaroo Island.

The presentation is entitled: ” The distribution and management of feral Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus) on Kangaroo Island, South Australia”.

Abstract: The Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus) is a widely-distributed pest bird species. Native to the Indian sub-continent, peafowl have established numerous feral populations in Australasia, USA and Hawaii, Europe, and South Africa. At high densities feral peafowl are habitat modifiers and a social nuisance, although their ecological impacts have been poorly documented. 20 On Kangaroo Island (South Australia) feral peafowl have established from uncontained domestic populations and are now widely dispersed in separate groups across the island. Previous peafowl management on Kangaroo Island has not been implemented in an evidence-based coordinated manner. In 2013 we conducted an Adelaide University Honours research project (C. Cunningham) to quantify the distribution and size of peafowl groups across Kangaroo Island, and to determine the suitability of habitat for future spread and expansion of the feral populations. We found that there is abundant unoccupied suitable habitat on Kangaroo Island and that, without management, the islandwide population is expected to substantially increase. Population modeling demonstrated that an annual cull of 150 birds would sufficiently reduce the island population, in six years, to realistic levels for achieving population eradication.