Diseases, fungi and parasites in Australia

 Murdoch University

Cockatoo infected by
psittacine circoviral disease
Photo: Murdoch University

Invasive diseases, fungi and parasites in Australia affect many native plants and animals and agricultural crops. Quite often when plants and animals have come into contact with introduced diseases, fungi or parasites they do not respond well to treatment. Vaccines are often very expensive to produce and are not feasible to apply broadly to wild animals. Some diseases have contributed to significant losses of species leading to some species becoming threatened or extinct.

Some of the diseases, fungi and parasites currently of concern because of their impact on native species include:

Diseases, fungi and parasites can affect the health of native species, reducing their ability to reproduce or survive. Threatened species with reduced and restricted populations due to other factors are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks caused by these introduced organisms. For threatened species even a small reduction in the number of young being born, or of individuals reaching adulthood, can lead to the eventual extinction of the species.

Control methods

Many invasive species are widespread across Australia and eradication is not feasible. Effective diagnosis, monitoring and management of these species are important to limiting their impacts.

Australian Government action

Listed key threatening processes under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EBPC Act).

In the case of these Key Threatening Processes, a threat abatement plan has been or is in the process of being prepared to provide a national strategy to manage the impact on biodiversity.

Each Threat Abatement Plan is to guide how best to reduce biodiversity impacts by:

  • protecting threatened native species and communities from the pathogens;
  • preventing further species and communities from becoming endangered by reducing the chance of exposure to the pathogens;
  • implementing management programs in specific areas that are a high conservation priority as a result of the species or ecological community under threat;
  • collecting information that expands our understanding of the ecology, biology, effects and control methods for each pathogen;
  • providing information to land managers to increase their knowledge of the pathogens, including the role of humans in their spread, and to enable their skilled and effective participation in management activities;
  • coordinating national, regional and local management activities and administration; and
  • developing new techniques.

Each plan establishes a framework to guide the way that valuable resources should be directed towards the management of Psittacine beak and feather disease, Chytrid amphibian fungus, Phytophthora cinnamomi disease. Management of these threatening processes will also require linkages to manage the recovery of threatened species and communities. The Australian Government will continue to work with the States and Territories and other stakeholders in dealing with these national problems.

Resources