Hotspots of biodiversity or homogeneous landscapes? farm dams as biodiversity reserves in Australia

Meredith Brainwood, Shelley Burgin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


In many countries the ubiquitous farm dam or pond is an integral component of agricultural landscapes. In Australia there are in excess of half a million farm ponds, used largely for irrigation or for watering stock. In contrast to Europe, these wetlands are being decommissioned in response to the introduction of government policy that regulates water usage from these dams. They are also being in-filled with expanding urbanisation without consideration of their benefits as reservoirs of biodiversity. We compared the diversity of macroinvertebrates in farm dams with nearby stream habitats on a cool temperate tableland in central New South Wales. There was greater diversity in-stream than in the dams; however, dam sites showed a larger mean diversity and total diversity per site than in-stream. Species recorded in-stream were more frequently represented by single individuals while species were recorded more consistently in dams. We also observed that macroinvertebrate assemblages were more similar to those in the same dam in different seasons than to adjacent dams in the same season. Some species recorded had not previously been recorded from farm dams. In contrast to the general consensus that Australian farm dams are homogeneous environments with a range of common widespread species, we showed that they provide a variety of sustainable reservoirs of biodiversity within the landscape. They also have the potential to provide 'stepping stones' between undisturbed and modified habitats, in part countering the fragmentation that occurs as a result of agricultural practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3043-3052
Number of pages10
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009
Externally publishedYes


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