Project Leader

Professor Neal Menzies, University of Queensland

Status

Contracting

Background

Myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii) poses a unique risk to Australian native forests. The host range within the ecologically important Myrtaceae family continues to grow, with populations of highly susceptible species exhibiting rapid decline. Evidence for changed community composition in affected communities is limited to a few studies. This study will be the first focused in the tropics and will be the first to focus on the effect of the pathogen on invasibility. This study will also extend existing research on the impact of myrtle rust on nutrient cycling.

Objectives and Impact

Using sites established in North East Queensland we aim to:

  • Survey local at risk populations, with a focus on the ecological important Tristaniopsis exiliflora, noting disease incidence and severity
  • Use of long-term datasets to determine changes in community composition attributable to myrtle rust infection

   Using sites established in South East Queensland we aim to:

  • To determine how changes in community composition (abundance and richness) in the understorey, and changes in canopy structure due to myrtle rust infection influence lantana (Lantana camara) establishment and growth.
  • Build on existing project (PBSF004) to compare the nutrient content of susceptible and tolerant co-dominant species to infer possible changes in leaf litter quality.
  • To determine possible changes to leaf litter production rates in infected populations.
  • To determine how changes in understory light and temperature conditions associated with altered canopy transparency influence decomposition rates.

Outputs

Data on species susceptibility and impact of myrtle rust on community composition in the Tropics

Data on the impact of myrtle rust on invasibility and ecological function

Outcomes/ impact of biosecurity Significant impact on Theme 3 Impact Assessment, expanding knowledge on the impact of myrtle rust on ecological communities and function.