Lord Howe Island closed due to threat to ecosystem from fungi

While a prompt response and treatment was instituted, the disease had since spread across most of the park reserve.


“It’s really hard to stop a windborne fungus, it spreads more when conditions are wet and humid,” said Andrew Cox, chief executive of the Invasive Species Council.

“The spores are like a force, so they can easily get on clothing or vehicles… so the spread is mostly through contact.”

Lord Howe Island Board chairman and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service chief Atticus Fleming said he was confident the invasive species would be eradicated but warned it was too early to say.

“In 2016 there was an outbreak that was eradicated. We’re obviously aiming to do the same now, but it’s probably 10 to 12 weeks before we know if we’ll be able to do that,” he said.

“There are quite a lot of unknowns regarding the impact of myrtle rust, and particularly in an environment like Lord Howe Island… but how quickly we would see impact and how extensive that impact would be, that’s still an unknown.”

The park’s closure will be assessed weekly by the island’s authority while experts analyze the region to halt the spread.

Stephen Sia said the main tourists affected by the island's closure are bushwalkers.

Stephen Sia said the main tourists affected by the island’s closure are bushwalkers. Credit:Janet Taka

Stephen Sia runs the Coral Cafe on the island and said the cordoned-off area is primarily the national park, which makes up 70 percent of the island. However, the settlement areas will still be accessible.

“A lot of work groups come to the island at this time of year and those who will be most affected are the tourists who plan to come here for bush trekking,” he said.

“The activities of the visitors are quite limited when they come here, one of the biggest attractions of the island is of course the nature of the national park.”

The island’s native species have often been under threat, most recently the 2019 rat eradication program helped revitalize the ecosystem.

Cox said programs like rat eradication on the island must be prioritized to prevent other invasive species.

“It’s really important to make sure the island stays free of other invasive species…there’s a lot at stake from other biosecurity threats like myrtle rust, so I think that’s really a high priority,” he said.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/most-of-lord-howe-closed-after-fungal-outbreak-20230316-p5csp1.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_national_nsw Lord Howe Island closed due to threat to ecosystem from fungi

Justin Scaccy

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