Exotic diseases represent a significant threat to Australia’s unique fauna and flora.
Dramatic declines in frog numbers in the 1970s were initially blamed on habitat destruction associated with logging. It was not until twenty years later that the disease Chytridiomycosis caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis was positively identified and is now officially recognized as the cause of four species extinctions. The disease is thought to have spread from Africa.
The Myrtle rust is an exotic disease from South America with the potential to infest many Australian native plants including Eucalyptus. The disease was first detected in Australia on the Central Coast of New South Wales in April 2010. Recently it was found in southeastern Queensland. In an attempt to stop the spread of the disease it is rumoured some National Parks could be closed to visitors.
According to advice from the Commonwealth:
“The fungus that causes Myrtle rust has not been found before in Australia. It belongs to a group of fungi known as the ‘guava rust complex’. This complex of diseases is native to South America and is also present in the United States of America (Florida and Hawaii) and Mexico. It is not known how Myrtle rust entered Australia. Rust fungi produce microscopic spores which are carried by wind, people’s clothing, plants or goods that are shipped around the world.
“Based on advice from the Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests and following the completion of actions undertaken under an interim response plan, the Myrtle rust NMG has agreed that it is not technically feasible to eradicate the rust.
“The decision of the NMG reflects the impossibility of eradicating and slowing the spread of this disease. This is based on understanding the behavior of the disease, its increasing host range and its spread beyond the New South Wales Central Coast to a large number of domestic, commercial, public and recreational sites.
“However, recognising the importance of ongoing chemical control, the Myrtle rust NMG has agreed that securing product registration for chemical use for all jurisdictions beyond the emergency response is an immediate priority…
Bell Miner Associated Dieback (BMAD) currently occurs through sclerophyll forests on public and private lands in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. These forests are regionally important for plant and animal conservation, water catchment management, tourism and the production of honey and timber. This form of dieback is of national significance as it is spreading through forest ecosystems in eastern Australia…