Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Collection

The Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Collection consists of aquatic macroinvertebrates from rivers, streams, springs, wetlands, and other Queensland freshwater sources. The collection started in the mid-1990s as a legacy of both past and ongoing river condition or health monitoring programmes in Queensland. As many samples were collected prior to the construction of dams these samples represent an irreplaceable record of past biodiversity.

The distribution of sampling sites is extensive and covers many bioregions and most river catchments – from the arid and semi-arid dryland rivers of the Lake Eyre Basin, to the Wet Tropics and monsoonal areas of northern Queensland. As such, the collection is invaluable for many environmental decisions as it offers an environmental benchmark for future economic development. The collection and associated data continue to support water planning and environmental impact assessment decisions.

State scientific collection

The specimens in the collection are not stored taxonomically but arranged by river system. They represent a unique geo-referenced resource of freshwater aquatic macroinvertebrate fauna, with around 3500 individual samples.

Individual animals in the collection are generally identified to the family level by trained scientists, and the resulting data is quality assured, and ISO certified. While the physical collection is stored by geographical location, the digital database enables location of a taxonomic sample, if required.

The biodiversity in Queensland’s rivers and other freshwater systems is unique, consisting of a massive diversity of insects, spiders, crabs, snails and mussels, a variety of worms and sponges.

Photograph of small freshwater clams (light orange clams are Sphaeriidae and orange clams with dark marks are Cyrenidae)Open larger image

Photograph of freshwater clams (Family: Sphaeriidae (at top) and Cyrenidae (formerly Corbiculidae - with dark marks); which can be difficult to separate. Corbiculidae have distinct growth rings and teeth on the hinge, while Sphaeriidae do not have teeth and at most faint growth rings). Interestingly the Sphaeriidae use parental care and brood their young in their gills (called marsupia) before releasing them as juveniles. Image © Queensland Government

Case study – Bioregion Water Quality Assessment

The strength of the Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Collection being curated by location and not taxa is that species assemblages are one of the best methods to determine the health of an aquatic ecosystem. Insect larvae, clams, sponges and small invertebrates together are indicator species that need very specific conditions to thrive. Therefore, the prevalence of a specific species or the absence of a characteristic group allows for an accurate assessment of the health of a body of water.

In Queensland, this knowledge is used for the creation and monitoring of freshwater bioregions. Part of the aquatic macroinvertebrate collection stems from such analysis and can be used to benchmark current development against a historic stable. For example, the creation of the Paradise Dam on the Burnett River or the Walla Weir changed the whole aquatic ecosystem. The degree to which this change might negatively influence the river ecosystem can be assessed through the samples in the collection.

Access to the collection

Due to the nature of the collection, public access is limited. If you are a researcher, you can access the collection by prior arrangement.