Bell Miner Associated Dieback (BMAD) has the potential to undermine the resilience of Gondwana World Heritage rainforest and associated vegetation types through diminishing tree health. Bell Miner colonies favour a sparse Eucalypt over-storey and dense lower mid-storey between 2 and 6m above ground.
Damaged forests with disturbed canopies and thick weed growth, often comprising Lantana, provide optimum habitat for the Bell Miner where colonies establish and feed on psyllid insects at the exclusion of other avian predators. Left unchecked, the psyllid leads to repeated cycles of defoliation and new leaf growth as the trees try to shed themselves of the insect load. Canopies become thinner as the trees struggle. Ultimately exhausting their carbohydrate reserves, the trees die.
Given the relationship between canopy disturbance, lower mid-storey density and the territorial nature of Bell Miner which perpetuates the decline of forest health in these areas, controlling unnaturally dense vegetation in disturbed eucalypt forests is the most logical point at which to interrupt the BMAD cycle.
This project supplements on-ground management trials currently underway in the Northern Rivers region looking at best practises when it comes to lantana control and forest restoration. By collecting information from around the region and further afield about the presence and abundance of Bell Miner colonies and location of BMAD affected forest, it will provide broader context in which the results of the onground trials can be interpreted. It also provides and opportunity for landholder to share their BMAD management experiences swo that this learning can be applied in future Best Management Practice advice.