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Webinar: Collective action provides hope for future recovery from Myrtle Rust

Held Wednesday 29 March 2023

Myrtle Rust, an introduced fungal disease, is known to infect close to 400 species of the Myrtaceae plant family in Australia, with a range of impact from minor to devastating. In the latter category is the rainforest tree Native Guava (Rhodomyrtus psidioides). However, collective action provides hope for future recovery. An upcoming webinar, jointly hosted by the Botanic Gardens Australia and New Zealand (BGANZ) Collections and Records Management group (BCARM), with speakers from the Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC) and the Australian Seed Bank Partnership (ASBP), will report on two recent projects directed at saving this and other species from imminent extinction. They are the pilot ‘Safe Custody for Native Guava’ project, and a survey of priority Myrtaceae species holdings in botanic gardens around Australia.

The project ‘Safe Custody for Native Guava’ has created more robust insurance collections of the Critically Endangered Rhodomyrtus psidioides through germplasm capture, genetic analysis, propagation and sharing of plant material. These activities are key to the survival of this species while longer-term recovery actions are pursued. In this webinar, we heard from Bob Makinson and Amelia Martyn Yenson (ANPC) about the impact of Myrtle Rust on this species, and the collaborative action providing hope in the face of rapid decline. This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government.

We also heard from Bradley Desmond (Acting National Coordinator, ASBP) about an inventory of priority Myrtaceae species held in ex situ collections across Australia and New Zealand. The Council of Heads of Australian Botanic Gardens (CHABG) and BGANZ undertook the first country-wide stocktake of Myrtaceae insurance populations, to understand the ex-situ representation of this Myrtle Rust affected family, and inform strategic planning, management and research. The survey closed in November 2022, and a report will shortly be made available.

These initiatives are key steps towards the goals of Myrtle Rust in Australia – A National Action Plan.

To download Bob’s slides from the webinar click here.

We also launched our new video featuring:

  • Bob Makinson (lead author of National Action Plan for Myrtle Rust, and ANPC Outreach delegate);
  • Craig Stehn (Snr. Threatened Species Officer, Saving our Species, NSW Department of Planning and Environment);
  • Veronica Viler (Horticultural Research Assistant, Australian Botanic Gardens Mount Annan, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust);
  • Stephanie Chen (Scientific Officer Biodiversity Research, Research Centre for Ecosystem Resilience, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust); and
  • Peter Gould (curator, Lismore Rainforest Botanic Garden).