A new film showcasing the wide-ranging impacts of the tree fungus Myrtle rust across Australia’s native environment hopes to generate better community awareness about the disease.
Myrtle rust, which now affects more than 380 Australian native species, is having significant cultural, social and ecological effects on Australia’s native environment – with at least 16 species predicted to become extinct within a generation.
The film has been produced through a combined NSW, Queensland and Commonwealth government-funded initiative, and draws on stories of Indigenous rangers, scientists and landowners’ experiences about the disease’s impact on our precious species and landscapes.
NSW DPI Forestry’s Leader Forest Health and Biosecurity, Dr Angus Carnegie, said the film’s important message included the work carried out to date to future proof vital ecosystems.
“So much effort has gone into managing this destructive disease, and by educating the community, they too can play a part in our control efforts,” he said.
“In the film we learn about efforts to bring species back from the brink of extinction and the value of protecting our unique ecosystems from biosecurity threats for generations to come.
“Time is very short for some species that are severely impacted by Myrtle rust, but there are meaningful conservation actions that can still be taken.
Dr Carnegie said the impacts of myrtle rust on Indigenous Communities are broader than just ecological and industry values as Country, Culture and Community are all connected.
He said global interconnectedness is increasing the risk of new threats to Australia’s irreplaceable biological heritage – exotic plant and animal diseases to which native Australian biota may have no adaptive resistance.
“Some of these diseases are broad-spectrum, affecting many native species.
“Myrtle rust is a threat of this type. This plant disease, caused by an introduced fungal pathogen, affects plant species in the Myrtle family (Myrtaceae), which includes paperbarks, tea trees, eucalypts, and lillypillies. These are key, and often dominant, species in many Australian ecosystems.”
Partners in the film initiative include: NSW Department of Primary Industries, NSW Department of Planning and Environment (Saving Our Species), Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Australian Network for Plant Conservation, Plant Biosecurity Science Foundation, Butchulla Land and Sea Ranger, San Diego Zoo, and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
- Myrtle rust, caused by the exotic fungus Austropuccinia psidii, is native to South America. It was first detected in Australia in April 2010 in NSW, spreading rapidly to other parts of Australia.
- The disease affects plant species in the family Myrtaceae and attacks new growth, with symptoms developing quickly on new shoots, and young leaves and stems.
- Myrtle rust is already affecting more than 380 Australian species, with sixteen species predicted to become extinct within a generation and many more are in decline.
- A National Action Plan for Myrtle Rust in Australia identifies the priority research and actions needed to tackle the environmental impacts of the pathogen