Phytophthora dieback conference looks at Blue Mountains and ‘graveyard sites’

July 9, 2012

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The 11th annual Dieback Information Group (DIG) conference is setting its sights on ways to protect Australia’s most cherished landscapes.

Set for Friday, July 27, at the Kalamunda Performing Arts Centre, the 2012 conference sees speakers from government, industry, research and conservation groups discussing the latest developments in battling the spread of the devastating Phytophthora dieback disease.

“Our theme is ‘Prioritisation for Conservation’, which reflects the need to prioritise our efforts and resources towards the conservation of species, ecosystems and sites in greatest need,” said Professor Giles Hardy of Murdoch University’s Centre of Phytophthora Science and Management (CPSM).

One of these vulnerable sites is the Greater Blue Mountains, a World Heritage Area located 60 kilometres outside of Sydney. Zoe-Joy Newby of the University of Sydney will discuss Phytophthora’s impact on the 1.2-million hectare region, which is home to endemic species including over 1500 plant species, 50 mammals and one-third of all native Australian birds.

“The potential impacts threaten the criteria for which World Heritage status was granted, so protection is important not just for flora and fauna but for tourism and the broader community too,” Ms Newby said.

“More than one million people visit the Greater Blue Mountains annually. Sampling indicates the Phytophthora infestation is widespread, especially in high-visitation locations. I’ll be discussing this and new techniques we’re trialling to detect the disease remotely.”

Mr Michael Pez, Policy and Project Officer with the Department of Environment and Conservation, will be discussing the creation of a ‘Top 100’ list for protectable Phytophthora dieback infested sites within WA.

“We are looking at key assets, including Lesueur National Park and Fitzgerald River National Park, and will be seeking stakeholder involvement for the nomination of protectable sites,” Mr Pez said.

Michael Crone of CPSM will present his work on black gravel areas so infested they are termed ‘graveyard sites’.

“My work is related to research which has shown temporarily removing all vegetation from a small area of forest can eradicate the pathogen,” he said.

“I discovered roots of small annuals and herbaceous perennials thought to be resistant were in fact heavily infected with a range of survival structures that allow the pathogen to persist indefinitely.”

The conference features more than a dozen speakers. For more information and to register, go here.

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