Dieback – Phytophthora Cinnamomi

What is Dieback?

Dieback (Phytophthora Cinnamomi) is a pathogen that lives in soil, water and plant material and attacks plant roots restricting the uptake of water and nutrients. It is a huge threat to Australia’s biodiversity and very prominent in WA, particularly the South West. Dieback is not easily detected as infected plants can often be mistaken to be dying from drought.

Phytophthora means “plant destroyer” and threatens to have devastating impact to over 2300 (40%) of different plant species in Western Australia.

It is believed that the disease was introduced to WA in cultivated plants bought in to our state by the first settlers. In the early 1920s the first unexplained death of a Jarrah tree was recorded but it wasn’t until mid 1960s that Dieback was identified as the cause of death.

How is Phytophtora Dieback spread?

Phytophthora Cinnamomi spreads via the movement of spores through wet soil from plant to plant through their root systems.

Human activity (such as hiking) in infested areas is the main method by which soil is moved from place to place causes the greatest spread of Dieback. It can be spread by the movement of infested gravel, road construction, animals and off-road vehicles. The risk of spread is often greater during Autumn and Spring as the soil is both warm and wet. These conditions allow the pathogen to produce millions of spores that are attracted to plant roots and actively swim through the soil water.

Although there are effective treatments to slow the spread, there is no known cure so we must help restrict the spread and protect the bush land that we love.

Managing Phytophtora Dieback?

  • Clean your footwear and vehicle before entering healthy sites and trails
  • Use boot cleaning stations where available
  • Try to remove mud and soil when it is dry with a brush
  • Pay attention to the information signs in Dieback risk areas
  • The Bibbulmun track is only for feet (no wheels)

How is Off The Beaten Track WA helping to stop the spread?

Off The Beaten Track WA have introduced boot cleaning sessions before and after each of their hiking tours and adventure experiences in Perth, South West WA and the Great Southern region.

After the important safety briefing, guests boots are sprayed down with a methylated spirits solution to ensure boots are clean before stepping onto the trails.

As we’re hiking along the trails and through the forest, OTBT point out Dieback affected trees, educate hikers on the disease and talk about what can be done to stop the spread. Once the hiking experience has concluded, boots are sprayed again to remove any dirt and disinfect the base of the boots.

For more information visit the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation & Attractions website.

Please remember ‘every step counts’ so keep yours clean!

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