Time since fire and average fire interval are the best predictors of Phytophthora cinnamomi activity in heathlands of south-western Australia

N.A. Moore, S.R. Barrett, K. Howard, Michael Craig, B.J. Bowen, B.L. Shearer, G.E.S.J. Hardy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Fires are features of ecological communities in much of Australia; however, very little is still known about the potential impact of fire on plant diseases in the natural environment. Phytophthora cinnamomi is an introduced soil-borne plant pathogen with a wide host range, affecting a large proportion of native plant species in Australia and other regions of the world, but its interaction with fire is poorly understood. An investigation of the effects of fire on P. cinnamomi activity was undertaken in the Stirling Range National Park of south-western Australia, where fire is used as a management tool to reduce the negative impact of wildfires and more than 60% of the park is infested with, and 48% of woody plant species are known to be susceptible to, P. cinnamomi. At eight sites confirmed to be infested with P. cinnamomi, the proportion of dead and dying susceptible species was used as a proxy for P. cinnamomi activity. Subset modelling was used to determine the interactive effects of latest fire interval, average fire interval, soil water-holding capacity and pH on P. cinnamomi activity. It was found that the latest and average fire interval were the variables that best explained the variation in the percentage of dead and dying susceptible species among sites, indicating that fire in P. cinnamomi-infested communities has the potential to increase both the severity and extent of disease in native plant communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-593
JournalAustralian Journal of Botany
Volume62
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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