Stonefly to test endangered Victorian species law
New endangered species laws will be tested on a wingless stonefly and the planned mountain bike track environmentalists say threaten the creatures' existence.
The Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) has made the first formal nomination for a critical habitat determination for the Mount Donna Buang wingless stonefly.
The critically endangered insect is known to inhabit a few square kilometres in shallow streams in the Yarra Ranges National Park, northeast of Melbourne.
The parks association says parts of a proposed mountain bike trail that run through the national park are a threat to the species.
"The Mount Donna Buang stonefly is a truly remarkable creature staring down the barrel of extinction," the association's Matt Ruchel told AAP.
While much of the planned track runs through state forest, large sections within the national park have already been rejected by former Victorian planning minister Lizzie Blandthorn.
The VNPA believes all remaining tracks within the national park must be shelved to protect the stonefly and is applying to protect it under a critical habitat determination, an untested legal provision to state environmental laws which came into effect in 2020.
The Scientific Advisory Committee will assess the application on Monday before making recommendations to the secretary of the department of energy, environment and climate action John Bradley, who then grants or rejects the determination.
DEECA has been contacted for comment.
"We are hopeful the department and scientific advisory committee will exercise their power to save the precious stonefly," Mr Ruchel said.
"If we can secure a critical habitat determination for stoneflies, that would set a strong precedent for other creatures on the long list of almost 2000 threatened species."
The stonefly is one of just two wingless species found in Australia, has a long life span of up to three years and survives dry summers by burrowing into the substrate of parched streams.
From an evolutionary standpoint, wings are of little use to the Donna Buang stonefly due to its localised habitat.
The invertebrate is so hard to find, Melbourne University PhD student Eddie Tsyrlin, who has studied the stonefly since 1993, tests water samples for DNA traces to gauge its prevalence.
"The stream that they're living in is not even mapped as a stream because it's so tiny," Mr Tsyrlin told AAP.
Biodiversity Council lead councillor Brendan Wintle said Australia was losing species at an unprecedented rate and insect species like the stonefly played crucial roles in ecosystems such as pollination and soil creation through decomposition.
"Every species we lose is like losing another rivet from the wing of an aeroplane," Prof Wintle said.
"Eventually the plane will crash."