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Fire and Rust

Assessing the impact of Myrtle rust on fire regeneration

While fire is considered an important selection agent in the development of Australia’s native flora, the development of new epicormic and young seedlings en-masse are ideal for the development and spread of the rust fungus Myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii). Recent extreme fire events have resulted in significant impacts on a range of different ecosystems, with widespread epicormic and seedling regeneration now occurring, creating ideal conditions for the spread and impact of rust.

This project, funded by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub, aims to determine the susceptibility and impact of myrtle rust on Myrtaceae species regenerating after bushfire. Locations across fire affected regions in NSW and Queensland, including reserves in the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage area, will be targeted with general surveys to capture data across a range of sites and species. Short term impact assessment plots will be established at selected sites and data recorded on disease progression/species decline rates on a monthly basis. The project will identify the species showing susceptibility and the regeneration forms (re-shoots/seedlings) affected by Myrtle rust. The effect of repeated infection on species recovery/survival will be determined for species highlighted in priority lists, including bushfire affected threatened plants.

In cooperation with the Department of Agriculture & Fisheries Queensland and the NSW Department of Primary Industries, surveys will be conducted across a wide range of ecosystems to capture information on species susceptibility. This includes Coastal heath and Wetland, Eucalyptus forest and rainforest in the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage area. Data will be collected on a range of species of known susceptibility and locations where Myrtle rust is likely to be most damaging, with a steering committee formed to further advise on sites and species of significance worst affected by fire. Preliminary surveys suggest species not normally seen as susceptible in undisturbed sites are becoming infected and impacted by myrtle rust. Surveys are being conducted from May to August 2020 to capture data during the peak periods for Myrtle rust activity.

The ANPC would like to thank the Threatened Species Recovery Hub for this funding.