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Distribution of understorey species in forest affected by Phytophthora cinnamomi in south-western Western Australia

McDougall, K.L., Hobbs, R.J. and Hardy, G.E.St.J. (2005) Distribution of understorey species in forest affected by Phytophthora cinnamomi in south-western Western Australia. Australian Journal of Botany, 53 (8). pp. 813-819.

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The introduced soil-borne pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi Rands infects and kills a large number of species in the jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata Donn. ex Smith) forest of Western Australia, causing great floristic and structural change. Many of the floristic changes can be explained simply by the known susceptibility of species to infection. Some common species, however, are rarely found at infested sites but are thought to be resistant to infection. It has been postulated that such species may be affected by the change in habitat caused by the death of trees, and not by P. cinnamomi directly. If this were the case, such species should cluster around surviving trees at infested sites. The occurrence of a susceptible species in the vicinity of trees surviving at infested sites has also been reported. To investigate the spatial relationship between trees and understorey species, the positions of trees and selected perennial understorey species were mapped at two sites in jarrah forest long-affected by P. cinnamomi. Random sets of plants and trees were generated and used in simulations to test whether understorey species grew closer to trees than expected. Many understorey species, both resistant and susceptible to infection by P. cinnamomi, were found to grow closer than expected to trees currently growing at the sites and closer to the trees that would have been present at the time of infestation. This suggests that not only do these trees enable some resistant species to persist at infested sites but that they also offer protection to some susceptible species against damage by P. cinnamomi. The proximity of many understorey species to trees that are likely to have appeared at the study sites since the first infestation indicates that the maintenance and enhancement of tree cover at infested sites in the jarrah forest may limit the damage caused by P. cinnamomi and assist in the protection of biodiversity.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Centre for Phytophthora Science and Management
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: (c) CSIRO
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