In 2007, the Victorian National Parks Association joined with the Friends of Brisbane Ranges, Parks Victoria and Deakin University to design a monitoring project that investigated the long-term effects of Phytophthora cinnamomi on the iconic Austral Grass-trees of the Brisbane Ranges National Park.
The project has seen 240 volunteers monitor grass-trees on 252 quadrat assessments over a 10-year period. This volunteer effort has contributed to building our knowledge of the impact of Phythopthora cinnamomi. Volunteers continued the important work carried out by Dr Gretna Weste, who pioneered the study of the disease in Victoria and spent close to 40 years conducting highly valuable research and used the same methods originally established by Dr. Weste in 1968.
Phytophthora cinnamomi is a soil-borne pathogen that infects many plant species. In susceptible hosts (such as grass-trees), the pathogen causes dieback and eventual death by inhibiting water and nutrient uptake. It is a serious problem in the Brisbane Ranges National Park requiring management.
The Brisbane Ranges National Park is around 80kms west of Melbourne. Seven locations across the park were monitored regularly over the ten years. These locations are a mix of sites that were monitored previously by Dr. Gretna Weste, and new sites in both Phytophthora cinnamomi infected and uninfected areas, and which had varied fire histories. These include four sites that were burnt in the 2006 wildfire. Most of the sites include eight quadrats (8m x 8m monitoring plots), comprising four quadrats that displayed obvious signs of infection and four without signs of infection (i.e. that appear ‘healthy’), for comparison.
That the project has continued for ten years is a tremendous collective achievement.