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Private dams vital to research

FARM dams across the Perth Hills are shaping research to better understand the importance of biodiversity in WA’s drying climate.

The East Metropolitan Regional Council (EMRC) freshwater biodiversity project will look at dams and streams, mostly on private property, in the City of Kalamunda, Shire of Mundaring and the City of Swan.

A EMRC spokesman said streams dammed for farm water supply could provide continuing water supplies in a landscape where it is otherwise scarce, but little was known about whether the dams could also offer habitat for native plants and animals. 

“In dry years, farm dams may provide the most frequently occurring perennial habitat for freshwater plants and animals in the Perth Hills,” he said.

“But because they are on private property, their potential value as drought refuges for native species has not been considered by government departments concerned with freshwater biodiversity conservation.”

Research findings could prompt further funding into the issue.

“Indeed, little is known Australia-wide about the biodiversity value of farm dams,” he said.

“This is of particular concern given that the south-west of WA is a global biodiversity hotspot, with many unique endemic freshwater species found nowhere else in the world.” 

These include ancient species of dragonfly, fish, frog and insects species as well as crayfish, mussels and other crustaceans native to WA.

Kalamunda MLA Matthew Hughes presented project officers with a Lotterywest grant of more than $92,000 last month.

“The EMRC and its project officers are to be commended for their work in initiating the project and the EMRC’s long-standing proactive engagement in habitat protection and rehabilitation in the context of its important focus environmental planning and management,” Mr Hughes said.

Project-partner Murdoch University contributed almost $75,000.

The study will take place from now until March 2019 with the findings expected to be released in July 2019.

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