Researchers from Murdoch University’s State Centre of Excellence for Climate Change, Woodland and Forest Health have been awarded a three-year Australian Research Council (ARC) linkage grant.
“We’ve seen dramatic forest changes due to the significant decline of tuart, wandoo, jarrah and peppermint. As a ‘keystone species’, the continuing collapse of marri trees across the South-West will likely have dramatic consequences for South-West ecosystems,” centre director Professor Giles Hardy said.
“Biodiversity loss, dangerously high fuel loads and increased wildfires are just some of the outcomes to be expected in the future.”
The ARC-funded research will help construct a detailed ‘description’ of the marri decline process. This description will be cross-disciplinary, taking into account everything from tree physiology, nutrition and pathology to the role of forestry.
“Deciphering the complex processes involved in tree decline is difficult because of the manner in which stress factors interact and interrelate. Decline isn’t a straight line and can’t always be traced to one factor,” Professor Hardy said.
“Though decline process descriptions require a great deal of time and research, they are an invaluable tool in finding sustainable management solutions.”
Professor Hardy said protecting marri had many underappreciated benefits.
“People have to understand how tree decline affects their everyday lives, from the costs incurred by shires and councils for tree and limb removal to impacts on secondary industries, such as the apiary and honey industry. Honey production from marri has declined approximately 70 per cent since 2008.
“Even more, we need to consider the positive social impacts conservation brings. Seeing WA’s iconic trees dying can be devastating for communities.”