DANGER: Forester Col Bowman has warned of the threat from trees affected by a new fungus epidemic in the Gympie region.
DANGER: Forester Col Bowman has warned of the threat from trees affected by a new fungus epidemic in the Gympie region. Patrick Woods

Tree fungus becomes a threat as trees rot and collapse

RETIRED Bauple forester Col Bowman says local authorities, power companies and governments are up for some big spending on a problem too small to see.

The threat is an almost microscopic fungus and the spending involves mitigating the safety hazard posed by trees the fungus is rotting.

Mr Bowman, who was involved in river bank regeneration projects in Gympie in the early 1990s, says trees that were young and vigorous then are victims of accelerated aging through the effects of a root rot fungus.

Already an epidemic that has cost Brisbane City Council money and trees, the brown root rot fungus is now in Gympie and Bauple.

"It is a horrible infection," Mr Bowman said.

"It attacks and decays tree roots, killing them and cutting off water and nutrient supplies to the crown, quickly killing the whole tree.

"Once that starts to happen, other forms of rot affect the tops of the tree.

"The trunk can snap and branches can fall.

"Even small branches can be deadly when they have fallen from a height because the speed of falling greatly increases the force."

CRUMBLING RUIN: Once-strong timber turns to fragile rubbish after infection.
CRUMBLING RUIN: Once-strong timber turns to fragile rubbish after infection.

Mr Bowman said many pine trees in the Gympie and Fraser Coast regions were affected and the fungus was starting to affect eucalypts too.

He said August rain, while the weather was still cool, seemed to have triggered a wave of infections and tree deaths, like the one above near Gympie Golf Course.

"Pine trees are not deciduous," he said, pointing to the trees which have lost their leaves. "The ones losing their leaves are dying."

The infection is also becoming a threat in the commercially vital Toolara and Tuan forests, which supply major Gympie Region timber producers raw materials.

"In Brisbane it has affected fig trees and they have had big troubles in Mackay," he said.

The fungus occurs in rainforests in Asia and on the east coast from Cape York to northern New South Wales.

Mr Bowman said he had seen them near power lines and threatening houses.

Decay could cause trees to fall without warning, he said.

Gympie Times


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