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Stygofauna of the Beetaloo Basin

The CSIRO’s Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) recently released its initial report on water sampling as a part of its Strategic Regional and Environmental Baseline Assessment (SREBA), one of the key recommendations of the Pepper Inquiry into hydraulic fracturing.

A lack of genetic diversity among tiny, newly discovered crustaceans called stygofauna living in underground aquifers from Mataranka to Elliott suggesting a high level of high level of interconnectedness of the groundwater.  The interconnection of water systems means a high risk to businesses, communities, and iconic places like the Mataranka Springs in the event of fracking contamination.

Scientists also found denitrifying bacteria and sulphate-reducing bacterial populations were present in many wells. These types of bacteria are known to corrode wells left by the gas industry, even when they were capped and abandoned, meaning it is effectively impossible to mitigate the risk of contamination if the fracking industry was allowed to continue expanding across the NT.

This report serves as a grave warning to the NT Government, demonstrating the risks of giving fracking the greenlight before adequate baseline research is done. The report was widely covered by mainstream media, and will be a source of ongoing advocacy by ALEC and other groups to delay fracking until more research can be done to understand the risks to stygofauna. 

Professor Jenny Davis is an environmental scientist specialising in freshwater ecology at Charles Darwin University and one of the scientists involved in the recent discovery. Jenny joined the Arid Lands Environment Centre to talk about these intriguing new creatures, the underground connectivity of aquifers, and the risks posed by gas fracking in the Territory.

Learn more about stygofauna research

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