A SOIL-borne water mould which slowly kills susceptible plant species has been discovered in the Grampians.
A recent survey, undertaken through a new partnership between Parks Victoria and Deakin University, has confirmed the presence of the pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi at the Grampians National Park.
The survey was funded by the Victorian State Government’s Flood Recovery Program and the results will be incorporated into management plans to reduce the impact of the pathogen, more commonly known as cinnamon fungus.
Causing root rot or "dieback", the cinnamon fungus is a soil borne pathogen that slowly kills susceptible plant species by restricting their access to nutrients.
Once infested, plants display a loss of colour, yellowing foliage, a decline in health and eventually plant death.
Dr James Rookes from Deakin University said laboratory testing determined the pathogen's presence.
“Sampling has confirmed the presence of P. cinnamomi in the Grampians and Wilsons Promontory national parks,” said Dr Rookes.
“This monitoring protocol can be used to measure rates of spread of P. cinnamomi and to test for presence of P. cinnamomi in previously untested sites.”
Grampians National Park ranger in charge David Roberts said while the results were disappointing, areas of land affected by flood were more vulnerable to infestation of pest plants, animals and infectious agents.
“Flood recovery is a complex process that extends past rebuilding tracks and bridges,” Mr Roberts said.
“It does take its toll on the environment and we need to factor that into our management.”
Mr Roberts said the Grampians was hit hard by the flood and was vulnerable to pests, establishing a foothold in the fragile and unstable ecosystem.
“We now need to take the necessary steps to contain it, which include cleaning vehicles, footwear, tools and machinery when going in and out of the affected areas.
“Like many elements in conservation there are no quick fixes or remedies to the flood impact on our National Parks and reserves.
"The partnership with Deakin University will help us adapt our practices to new scientific knowledge and help us work through these challenges”.
Parks Victoria flood recovery invasive species officer Brendan Smith said the survey involved field based root sampling.
"It also established guidelines and protocols for the ongoing monitoring of the pathogen for years to come here and throughout Victoria’s national and state parks,” he said.