Aquatic Root Mats are found in several caves within the Augusta-Margaret River area, on what is known as the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge. These root mats support rich aquatic communities including crustaceans, worms, snails and mites that are highly specialised to subterranean life.

Tree species including karri, marri and peppermint trees extend their roots into the caves where they branch out forming root mats within cave streams or pools.

These root mats provide a constant and abundant source of food and are able to support a remarkably high number and diversity of aquatic fauna species. The root mats within the caves of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge can support over 20 species of invertebrates, which is greater than that more commonly found in other cave systems around the world.

The invertebrate species and water quality varies greatly from cave to cave, so the root mat communities of each cave are considered distinct from each other.

THREATS

As the root mat communities are highly restricted and depend on the presence of permanent water in the caves, they are threatened by a drying climate which is leading to reduced groundwater and stream flows into the caves. Other threats are pollution of the water sources and loss of the trees that provide root mat habitat and food for the communities.
“The amphipod crustacean (Uroctena n. sp.) shown in the picture to the right is a rare and unique species, living only in the Jewel Cave karst system near Augusta, where it is in danger of extinction due to declining groundwater levels. ”
Stefan Eberhard – Photographer. www.subterraneanecology.com.au