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ECU researchers hope to shed light on Pilbara birds

Thursday, 18 October 2012

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A research partnership between ECU and Dampier Salt Limited will investigate the interactions between the Pilbara’s birdlife and its diverse environment.

The $900,000, four year research collaboration will examine shorebirds, fish, mangrove populations and invertebrates in a program aimed at improving knowledge about the unique ecology found across DSL’s three mining leases in the Pilbara and Gascoyne.

The three sites, where saline seawater is evaporated and salt collected, are an important stopover for migratory birds and are all officially classed as Important Bird Areas (IBAs).
Dampier Salt operations manager Malcolm Ferris said the IBAs were significant sites of global bird conservation and each site meets criteria set by BirdLife International.

“DSL’s crystalliser ponds are a feeding ground for the birds and provide a source of food not otherwise available on a constant basis,” he said.

“In return, the birds help maintain the pond ecology and allow the populations of fish and organisms to sustain a healthy lifecycle balance.

“Birds, fish, flora and fauna are all part of complex interaction that makes up the environment in which DSL produces salt, and they play an integral part in our actual salt producing process.

ECU’s Professor Pierre Horwitz is leading the program and makes two field trips to Dampier Salt’s Lake MacLeod site to collect data with students.

While PhD student Dimitris Bertzeletos conducts shorebird research at Port Hedland and Dampier.

Mr Bertzeletos is currently undertaking a 12-week data collection field trip and will participate in the annual bird watch days that will run over the next five days at Dampier, Cape Lambert and Port Hedland and involve Rio Tinto employees, researchers, volunteers, Birdlife Australia representatives and the community.

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