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Dredge pond to wetland sanctuary for threatened fish

Friday, 17 February 2012

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Disused dredge ponds on WA’s Swan coastal plain could soon become a spawning ground for the threatened black-striped minnow Galaxiella nigrostriatathanks to ECU research.

ECU Master of Science (Environmental Management) student Dave Galeotti is researching the ecology of this threatened fish and hopes to determine how dredge ponds once used by Kemerton Silica Sands as part of its mining operation could be converted into suitable wetland environments to ensure the survival of the species.

The black-striped minnow is endemic to WA and only can only be found in three locations: Melaleuca Park, near Perth; Kemerton, near Bunbury and between Augusta and Albany –and mainly in seasonal wetlands. 

The fish is unique as it aestivates, otherwise known as summer hibernation, burrowing into the sediment of seasonal wetlands when they dry to follow the ground water.

The Kemerton site is significant as there are 11 wetlands clustered together, which Mr Galeotti has found has a positive impact on the survival of the species, as migration between the wetlands can then occur.

“I conducted research into the habitat and population genetics to see if the black-striped minnow were adapting or evolving to different environmental variables,” Mr Galeotti.

Research findings indicate that the black-striped minnow is a resilient little fish, able to adapt to its changing environment to survive.

“The wetlands where these fish are located are relatively pristine, however they have high nutrient concentrations, generally from surrounding agriculture and urbanisation, but the fish continue to survive,” Mr Galeotti said.

“In groups of wetlands such as this, I have found that there is more genetic diversity among the fish population rather than a single wetland. My research highlights the need to conserve groups of wetlands.”

“The rehabilitation of the dredge ponds in this area could provide a perfect habitat for the black-striped minnow, which could also help its survival,” Mr Galeotti said.

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