Threat abatement plan for dieback caused by the root-rot fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi (2001)

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Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001

About the plan

Australia's native vegetation and its dependent biota are threatened by a plant pathogenic fungus called Phytophthora cinnamomi. P. cinnamomi causes the roots of susceptible plants to rot. It is thought that it was introduced at some time after European settlement; it is now well established in many of the country's higher rainfall areas-areas with a mean annual rainfall greater than 600 millimetres-in a mosaic of infected and uninfected areas. Its effects range from devastating to inconsequential, depending on environmental factors, which vary both within and between regions. The only biomes that appear to be least threatened are the wet-dry tropics and the arid and semi-arid regions. The level of threat and its distribution, however could easily increase if human activities were to alter the site conditions to favour the spread and intensification if the species. The latter activities may include the alteration of the hydrology of an area as this could subsequently foster a rising water table and a subsequent intensification of spread of P. cinnamomi. In addition, P. cinnamomi can spread independently or with the assistance of animals or humans.

Detailed information on the nature of P. cinnamomi and its history in Australia can be found in the technical report entitled 'A national overview of Phytophthora cinnamomi in Australia: supplementary information to accompany the draft national threat abatement plan' (Podger 1999).

'Dieback caused by the root-rot fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi' is listed as a 'key threatening process' in Schedule X to the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. When it is determined that having a threat abatement plan is a feasible, effective and efficient way to abate the process a nationally coordinated threat abatement plan must be prepared and implemented to manage the impact of Phytophthora cinnamomi on Australian ecosystems.

While eradication is not possible at present, well developed management plans based on current knowledge can assist in restricting the intensification and spread of known infestations and limit spread to new sites.

This threat abatement plan, therefore, has two main goals:

  • to protect nationally listed threatened species and ecological communities from Phytophthora cinnamomi; and
  • to prevent further species and ecological communities from becoming threatened by reducing the chance of exposure to the pathogen.

To abate the threat posed by P. cinnamomi, action in four important areas is prescribed:

  • Implementation of management programs in specific areas that are a high conservation priority as a result of the species or ecological communities under threat.
  • Encourage better understanding through the collection of information that expands our understanding of the ecology and biology of P. cinnamomi in Australia, its effects and of methods for managing the pathogen.
  • Education of land managers and relevant organisations to increase their knowledge of the effects of P. cinnamomi and the role of humans in spreading the pathogen and to ensure skilled and effective participation in management activities.
  • Coordination of national, regional and local management activities and administration.

Specific actions in the plan describe the measures to be used to mitigate the harm caused by the P. cinnamomi. The strategy advocated in the plan involves the use of available methods to restrict the intensification and spread of P. cinnamomi in manageable areas that are critical to the conservation of threatened species and ecological communities. In addressing the conservation of species, close links must be established with species recovery plans and with existing state and territory programs. Action will also be taken to ensure that P. cinnamomi does not become established in important 'islands' that are at present free of the pathogen. In addition, there will be a focus on collecting and disseminating information to improve our understanding of P. cinnamomi control methods and their effects, particularly in areas that have not been infected for very long.

Implementation of the plan will allow for consolidation and coordination of the process of managing P. cinnamomi impacts on native flora and vegetation. The main priority is to provide support for on-ground control programs that are necessary for the recovery of threatened species and threatened ecological communities. Control programs will have to continue for some time and the costs of this will be considerable. This plan therefore establishes a framework for allowing the best possible use of resources that are available for managing P. cinnamomi infestations.

Review status

The Threat abatement plan for dieback caused by the root-rot fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi (2001) was reviewed in 2005. A revised plan was disallowed by the Senate in November 2009. In response to the disallowance motion, the Minister agreed to develop a variation of the 2001 plan.

The draft Threat abatement plan for disease in natural ecosystems caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi (2013) was released for public consultation from 20 February 2013 to 20 May 2013. The department thanks the many individuals and agencies who have provided comments on the draft plan. The department is now revising and improving the draft plan in light of those comments. In the meantime, the original 2001 plan remains in effect.