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New species of stygofauna could sink fracking and cotton plans

Important research released out of Charles Darwin University and CSIRO today could significantly impact plans for both fracking and large-scale agriculture in the Northern Territory.


11 new species of stygofauna have been found in the aquifers underlying the Beetaloo gas fields, stretching up to Katherine.

Stygofauna are tiny critters found in groundwater aquifers. They help to purify groundwater so it is safe for humans, animals and other living organisms to use. 90% of the Northern Territory’s water comes from groundwater sources. They are thus absolutely essential to healthy water supplies for all living things in the Northern Territory.

The authors of the research, Jenny Davis, Daryl Nielsen, Gavin Rees and Stefanie Oberprieler, say: “The species we discovered live in a region earmarked for fracking by the Northern Territory and federal government. As with any mining activity, it’s important future gas extraction doesn’t harm groundwater habitats or the water that sustains them.”

ECNT’s Co-Director Kirsty Howey said about the research: “This research is of immense importance, and could well derail plans for fracking and large scale irrigated agriculture across the Northern Territory. If groundwater aquifers are contaminated, or significantly drawn down by irrigated agriculture activities, then these stygofauna could be irreversibly impacted and the Northern Territory’s groundwater quality could be damaged.”

“Further extensive research to characterise must be a key part of the Strategic Regional and Environmental Baseline Study (SREBA) currently being designed and implemented by the Northern Territory Government. ECNT calls on the Northern Territory Government to immediately prioritise funding for this vital research about our stygofauna, and to work towards protecting these creatures that are so vital for all life in the Northern Territory.”

“These creatures should undoubtedly be listed under the Northern Territory’s Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, and the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act so that they can enjoy some measure of protection. In the meantime, all fracking and large-scale irrigated agriculture projects must be put on hold.”

For more about the research, read here.

Media contact

Kirsty Howey: 0488 928 811

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