Project Leader, Organisation

Associate Professor Jennifer Firn, Queensland University of Technology

Status

ACTIVE

Background

The Threatened Species Committee consider Austopuccinia psidii (myrtle rust, MR) as a serious threat to biodiversity due to impacts on ecologically, culturally, socially and economically important plant species from the Myrtaceae family. Over 350 species in Australia are known as susceptible. MR is killing off the understorey of unique forest ecosystems across eastern and northern Australia; and therefore impacting entire ecosystems. This study will be the first to understand how this loss of understorey species impacts on ecosystem function and whether there are specific plant traits that can be used to predict susceptibility of the host.

Objectives and impact

This project aims to develop an understanding of the influence of plant traits and site characteristics in the incidence of MR infection and severity of impact on individual species and plant communities. Quantifying these impacts will enable the development of focussed species conservation processes and identification of plant communities and ecosystems at greatest risk of long term impacts.

Using sites already identified by Carnegie (2016) and Pegg (2018) we aim to:

  • Quantify host susceptible traits to MR of severely affected species
  • Measure how selective dieback of susceptible tree species impacts on community dynamics and ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycling
  • Create epidemiology models of MR impact to predict severity of impacts across different environments

Outputs:

  • Data to assess impact of MR on ecological function
  • Date to help predict host and site factors influencing disease incidence and severity, improving our ability to predict impact
  • Information on host traits that influence susceptibility that could be used for
    • Selecting resistance
    • Managing site/landscape regeneration

Outcomes/impact on plant biosecurity

  • Significant contribution to priority themes within the MR Action Plan (Theme 3 and 4)
  • Develop a standard methodology to capture broader ecological impact data