The Other 99%
While many studies and surveys are done on terrestrial ecosystems, most tend to concentrate on the vascular plants and the vertebrate fauna. Less well known and often poorly understood are the smaller life forms – including the fungi and the invertebrates, or what has been called “the other 99%”. 1
The graph to the left shows the species composition as recorded from jarrah forest sampled in the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) FORESTCHECK project. Invertebrates (greater than 10 mm) comprise 49% of all species recorded (plants, animals and fungi combined), and 92% of all animals. DEC source
It’s hard to estimate how many species of invertebrates or fungi there may be: one estimate is that there may be 250,000 species of fungi in Australia (Fungibank ), while an estimate for invertebrates is 10 million plus! (Recher et al 1996, quoted in Horwitz et al 1999). So we have probably only described 5-10% of what’s there, and we can be reasonably sure that some have already disappeared.
There is currently an increased focus on building knowledge of the cryptogams in Western Australia. Cryptograms is the collective term used for the fungi, lichen, algae and bryophytes (mosses). A recent summary of the estimated and currently described numbers in WA for each of the main groups is given on Florabank as:
| Current taxa
| Estimated species number
Biological (or cryptogamic) soil crusts is the term used for the complex associations of mosses, lichens, liverworts, cyanobacteria, fungi and bacteria that make up a living soil covering in many parts of the landscape. They play important roles in ecological processes, including fixing atmospheric nitrogen through the cyanobacteria, harbouring populations of soil fauna (those invertebrates again!) that take part in soil decomposition and mineralisation, and influencing water infiltration and surface stability. In woodlands and semi-arid systems in particular, so great is their importance to the biological and physical system they are used as an indicator of system health.
Read more about fungi and invertebrates in the Gondwana Link areas.
1 We have borrowed the term 'The other 99%' from the book: “The other 99%. The Conservation and Biodiversity of Invertebrates” ed by Winston Ponder and Daniel Lunney 1999. Transactions of the Royal Zoological Society of NSW, Mosman.