This study examined the impact of the Black Summer 2019/20 wildfires in the Northeast Forests of New South Wales for seven priority heteropteran (= true bug) species, across a range of vegetation classes and host plants. Our area of study spanned 104,000 km2, from the Queensland border to the Hunter Valley, and west towards Narrabri.
We used data primarily from the Plant Bug Inventory database, inclusive of all phytophagous families of the suborder Heteroptera. We identified 122 survey sites based on their distribution in historical collection data and that of their known host plants. These sites were parsed into unburnt (69 locations) and burnt (53 locations), with the latter further categorised by fire severity.
The 122 sites were surveyed in four field trips in the late summer early autumn and spring of 2021. One or more of the priority species were detected at thirty-three sites (22 unburnt and 11 burnt sites). The first three field trips (January–March) resulted in the discovery of only Woodwardiola ‘n.sp_LOMA’. The fourth field trip (November) resulted in the discovery of four additional species (Kirkaldyella rugosa, Setocoris ‘n.sp_BINA’, Epimixia vulturna and Eritingis trivirgata), as well as W. ‘n.sp_LOMA’. The two other priority species (Kirkaldyella schuhi and Myrmecoroides grossi) were not found.
IUCN Red list methodology was employed to analyse the conservation status of the seven priority species. All seven priority species were found to be species of Least Concern for EEO and Data Deficient for AOO. The Data Deficient categorisation was decided based on insufficient sampling data plus expert opinion. Further sampling is required for all species but is critical for Kirkaldyella schuhi and Myrmecoroides grossi to determine whether their non-detection in this survey is due to sampling inadequacy or due to environmental factors.