Snow gums are experiencing dieback in Kosciuszko National Park, largely because of the impacts of the native longicorn (or ‘longhorn’) beetle. These beetles prefer to lay their eggs on moisture-stressed trees and, in warmer weather, the longicorn beetle can hatch and grow up to 75% faster. It is understood that climate change is helping the spread of dieback because of background warming.
Now dieback is being seen more frequently in the mountain forests of Victoria.
Jessica Ward-Jones, a PhD student at the Fenner school, is part of a group researching snow-gum dieback, and is asking for people visiting the mountains to send in details of sightings of dieback affected trees.
I’m a PhD student at the Fenner school, part of a group researching snow-gum dieback. There are a lot of dead trees in the Brindies, Kosci and the Vic Alps, a lot of which are a result of the 2003 or 2020 fires. There are also many dead snow gums as a result of being eaten alive by a native wood-boring beetle (called Longhorns, genus Phoracantha). You can tell these trees apart because they have many distinct horizontal scars across their stems, these are feeding galleries made by the beetle larvae. Snow gums are being ring-barked across a widespread area and at an alarmingly intense rate. This is the event we’re referring to as snow-gum dieback.
I am focusing on landscape scale drivers of the event. To do this I’m aiming to collect records of snow gums both healthy and dieback affected across the whole of their range. I’ve developed a simple phone based survey that anyone can use to collect records of snow gums and their health. I’ll use this data to analyse the relationship between their landscape position (and associated abiotic/biotic variables) and likelihood of being dieback affected. This work along with colleagues findings will hopefully lead to some positive management outcomes for these iconic trees.
I’m wondering if the next time you are out amongst the snow gums and have a spare few minutes, if you would use my app-based survey to collect some really valuable observations of snow gums for me? The more the merrier and you are most welcome to share it with anyone who may like to contribute. The more observations I have the better the analysis will be!
I’m not requesting systematic surveys but rather observations made when they are convenient for you. They should only take a couple of minutes each time. Any records you can make out there are greatly appreciated. The only spatial guidelines I recommend are that records are made around 1km apart within snow gum stands. I aim to conduct some more detailed systematic surveys in the future but I am hoping to first refine the broader scale of the outbreak.
The document attached in the comments below takes 10 minutes to read. It describes dieback symptoms and has some example pictures, helps ID snow-gums, and steps through how to use the app and complete the survey. The app and guide can also be downloaded from our website saveoursnowgum.org in the ‘Help Us’ section. If you’re interested, check out our website, or feel free to email me with any questions at Jessica.Ward-Jones@anu.edu.au.
This is different to death of Snow Gums due to repeat fire. To be involved in the citizen science program tracking loss due to fire, please check here.