Domestic tourism boom in Western Australia is threatening local plant species

Domestic tourism boom in Western Australia is threatening local plant species

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Published on : Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Western Australia

An influx of tourists visiting Western Australia’s forests might ruin plant species and researchers are worried about the spread of devastating dieback.

A boom in intrastate tourists due to WA’s tight COVID borders and a wet winter, causing more mud, spawns ideal conditions for spread of the fungal disease, which has already killed more than one million hectares of native bush in WA.

Phytophthora, the fungal disease causing dieback, attacks the roots of plants and once it infects the soil in an area, it cannot be eradicated.

Mia Hunt, dieback project officer at South Coast Natural Resource Management (NRM), said that she feared that the increase in domestic tourism and heavy rainfall in the region would aggravate the spread of the disease.
To quote Hunt, “There’s [also] been a lot of rain that makes the ground stickier, and that makes it easier for us to transport [dieback].”

Humans are the principal spreaders of dieback, commonly spread through the mud and soil that sticks to shoes and car tires.

Hunt said, “When you’re walking around in the bush, or you’re four-wheel driving or going camping, you might get some muddy soil stuck to your boots or your car or tent pegs even. And then when you move to your next location … you’re potentially taking infested material into a clean park.”

Dieback seriously impacts Australia’s native flora, Hunt stressed.

Hunt believes that public awareness is important to control the spread of this disease.

She said, “We’ve all got COVID on our minds right now and I think that’s a really good opportunity to think about hygiene and biosecurity. We just have to be aware and be careful … wash your hands and wash your car … we don’t have COVID [in WA] but we do have dieback.”

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