226 years after the English arrived to colonise Australia, 75 per cent of Australia’s species are still unknown to science. This informed estimate has been made by Jo Harding, the manager of Bush Blitz, a program supported by federal and state government agencies and research institutions, which documents plants and animals around Australia, leading to the discovery of hundreds of new species.
Ms Harding’s claim that about 75 per cent of Australia’s biodiversity is unknown is based on a 2009 report published by the federal environment department. It aggregates information from a large number of sources and previous studies to calculate the number of species already discovered and estimate the number of species yet to be discovered both around the world and in Australia.
It determined that Australia had 147,579 “accepted described species”, 26 per cent of its estimated total Australian species.
The Bush Blitz claim and the 2009 report were put under the microscope by the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Fact Check researchers (http://abc.net.au/news/5649858). They gave it the thumbs up as did Sir David Attenborough who commented: “This report will provide a crucial reference point for all those who are acting to protect our planet for future generations.”
Jo Harding said: “We’ve discovered 700 new species so far, that’s over the last approximately four years, and we’re still counting.”
The 2009 report casts a wide net in defining biodiversity. It covers all types of plants (including algae) and fungi as well as vertebrates (such as mammals, reptiles, fish and birds) and invertebrates (such as insects and octopuses) in both marine and land environments.
PHOTOGRAPH: My photograph shows a spectacular beastie found about 12 years ago at Kabulwarnamyo in western Arnhem Land. I took the photograph to the CSIRO in Darwin for indentification and was told “sorry, no species ID and the genus has the working title of #10!”
However, Northern Territory entomologist Michael Braby advises that four years ago a number of related specimens have finally been sorted down to the species level and the work published by Rentz et al. in the journal Zootaxa 2417:1-39 (2010) with the title “Studies in Australian Tettigoniidae: Australian agraeciine katydids, two new genera from northern Australia (Tettigoniidae; Conocephalinae; Agraeciini)”.
Picking which species that my bug belongs to from the taxonomic description is not easy and Michael’s opinion is “it looks like Armadillagraecia mataranka, but I would need to carefully check it against the paper.”
Michael also comments on the decline of taxonomy as a field of science.
“Taxonomy, especially traditional taxonomy in museums around the world, is in deep trouble. The field become unfashionable about 20-30 years ago, unfortunately before the task of documenting the planets biodiversity had been completed. Paradoxically, this is occurring at a time when it is needed most, when biodiversity is in crisis, and the need to be able to systematically catalogue and identify animals and plants has never been more urgent.”
Not sure if AM has a Bininj Gunwok name. I’ll have to ask ask.

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