Research project: Temporal and distributional patterns of terrestrial arthropods in the Pilbara region of Western Australia


Start date:

Museum investigators

External investigators

  • Gerry Cassis, University of New South Wales
  • Gareth Carter, New South Wales Rural Fire Service
  • Scott Lassau, New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service
  • Andrew Donnelly, Earthwatch Institute
  • Matthew Bulbert, Macquarie University

Funded by

  • Rio Tinto


Invertebrate populations are dynamic and non-equilibrial, especially in climatically variable regions such as the Pilbara. We conducted a series of 15 surveys between 2004 and 2006 to quantify this spatial and temporal variability in terrestrial arthropods.

We found that the abundance and species richness of invertebrates peaked in November-January, before the start of the monsoonal rains. There were large seasonal and inter-annual variations in populations, and this hindered the ability of any taxonomic group to act as a surrogate for others. While grazing is often perceived to have a negative impact on biodiversity, we found that there was actually higher biodiversity near the man-made waterholes in grazed areas. As water is limited in arid areas, it is possible that the positive effect of waterholes outweighs the negative effect of grazing.

Different taxa had different distributional patterns, but there were a number of similarities that emerged. There were distinct communities in coastal, inland and high-elevation locations, although different taxa appeared to respond to different environmental factors.

Dr John Gollan , Scientific Officer
Dr Mick Ashcroft , Spatial Analyst
Dr Dan Faith , Senior Principal Research Scientist email:danfaith8[at]
Scott Ginn , Technical Officer, Frozen Tissue Collection, Australian Centre for Wildlife Genomics
Last Updated: