Action needed: Myrtle Rust disease driving native plant species to extinction

The Winter Regional Gathering of Native Plants Queensland reinvigorated our concern in regard to Myrtle Rust by a disturbing presentation by Dr Jarrah Wills of the Queensland Herbarium.

We had been lulled into a sense of false security in the last couple of years, as this insidious air borne ‘predator’ of the family Myrtaceae seemed to have reduced impact. But Dr Wills explained that we are very much mistaken because Myrtle Rust has been steadily spreading north and south from its original illegal entry point into Australia in the Gosford area.

What you can do...

Please read Myrtle Rust in Australia: A draft Action Plan and email your feedback to the Australian Plant Biosecurity Science Foundation (MRActionPlan@apbsf.org.au) by 31 August 2018.

A strong expression of stakeholder views, whether critical of the draft Action Plan or supportive, will help to demonstrate the seriousness of the issue, and to secure attention to it in both government and non-government circles.

It is now readily found infecting the natural bushlands as well as the constructed garden and landscape environments along coasts and hinterlands of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, across to Kakadu and the Kimberly’s, with southwestern Western Australia and Tasmania firmly in its intentions. 

It was very disturbing to see recent photographs of the Daintree rainforests where large emergent Myrtaceae tree species were dead and dying across the canopy. Similarly smaller Myrtaceae species were dying right down to the understory. This is also happening throughout the rainforests, forests and wetlands of Queensland. The same was true in the southern states, particularly the coastal heathlands of northern NSW.


This should be of huge concern to all our members as the potential exists with the continuing dieback of the Myrtaceae family to change the face of the Australian landscape, and the dependent fauna in a massive way. The Australian community needs to be made aware of the situation so that comprehensive public pressure can force national and international involvement from all levels of Government, Botanic Gardens, Commercial Horticulture business, and concerned organizations like ANPSA, APS, NPQ.

Report by Lawrie Smith AM


Message from Linda Broadhurst ANPC President
Myrtle Rust pathogen in Australia

On behalf of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC), I would like to draw your organisation's attention to the release in June 2018, of two documents relating to the environmental threat posed by the Myrtle Rust pathogen in Australia.
'Myrtle Rust in Australia - a draft Action Plan' is now published in PDF format at www.apbsf.org.au. This document is open for public comment until 31 August 2018.
The intent of the draft Action Plan is to provide a framework for a nationally coordinated environmental response to Myrtle Rust - that is, for the conservation of native biodiversity at risk. Such a response has been lacking to date.
'Myrtle Rust reviewed: the impacts of the invasive pathogen Austropuccinia psidii on the Australian environment' is now published in PDF format at www.apbsf.org.au. This is the first overall synthesis of the environmental effects of this pathogen. The intent of the review of impacts is to provide the evidentiary basis for the proposed actions, and to show their urgency.

Uptake of the draft Action Plan, and resourcing of its recommended actions, are not a given. No agencies are yet committed to it. Uptake will depend in part on public and professional feedback during the comment period. Australia has to date lacked any nationally coordinated response to the environmental dimensions of this pathogen. Some momentum has been established over the last year at Commonwealth level, but needs reinforcement at all levels of government.

The Review and draft Action Plan were co-funded by the National Environmental Science Program (NESP) of the Commonwealth Department of Environment, and the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre (PBCRC). As of June 30, the PBCRC sadly no longer exists, but much of its legacy is preserved at the www.apbsf.org.au website.

Myrtle Rust disease, caused by the pathogenic fungus Austropuccinia psidii, is already causing the steep decline of a number of Australian native plant species, at least four of which are now approaching extinction after only a few years of exposure. 45 species are nominated in the draft Action Plan for priority conservation actions. The beginnings of ecosystem-level decline are starting to become apparent in rainforest, coastal heathland, and some Melaleuca wetland communities, and cascade declines of other biota are on the cards in some cases.

I urge your organisation to consider providing comment on the draft Action Plan, to the email address shown on it, by August 31. We understand that comments received will be collated and circulated to the government agencies who would need to lead and provide core funding for any environmental response. A strong expression of stakeholder views, whether critical of the draft Action Plan or supportive, will help to demonstrate the seriousness of the issue, and to secure attention to it in both government and non-government circles.

 

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