Macquarie Island mysterious azorella plant dieback blamed on “noticeable change in climate”

Saw this on ABC – Macquarie Island faces new battle against mysterious azorella plant dieback – I thought – bet they blame “climate change” – sure enough

Scientists believe the plant’s demise has been caused by a range of things including a noticeable change in climate. “Everybody who has been going to Macquarie Island for a long time has noticed longer drier periods, changes in the wind direction and the rainfall”

Yet annual temperature and rain data from KNMI Climate Explorer does not indicate significant changes.

Temperature from the father of Global Warming

….and rain does not seem to be vanishing

I am sure it will be at the wrong time though – or maybe the size of the drops is wrong.

Some more info on Azorella -Australian Antarctic Division and from Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

17 thoughts on “Macquarie Island mysterious azorella plant dieback blamed on “noticeable change in climate””

  1. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t related to the amount of snow cover. Is anyone able to locate snow cover records? Slight changes and variations in temperature and rainfall don’t affect these hardy extremophiles but I expect the duration of exposure (or lack of) to daylight might. That is certainly the case with high alpine cushion plant species in the SI of NZ.

  2. ‘”Everybody who has been going to Macquarie Island for a long time has noticed longer drier periods, changes in the wind direction and the rainfall,” she said.’
    BoM shows a slight increase in rainfall since the 1960/70s.
    www.bom.gov.au/jsp/ncc/cdio/weatherData/av?p_display_type=dataGraph&p_stn_num=300004&p_nccObsCode=139&p_month=13

    As you say, Warwick, no significant change at all. Do they actually check the data or rely on people noticing things?

  3. “Everybody who has been going to Macquarie Island for a long time has noticed longer drier periods, changes in the wind direction and the rainfall”

    Whenever you see anything like this you know that the recorded facts don’t support the case being presented.

  4. Actually if you look at the data there are changes – though I haven’t tested for significance.

    The average number of heavy rainfall days (>10mm) from November to March has increased by about 18% this decade compared to the previous two decades.

    Similarly the number of warm days (>8.5c) has increased also (coincidently) by about 18% this decade compared to the previous two decades.

    Note there are other trends and details which provide different perspective that I haven’t covered here. An untested and most likely wrong hypothesis is that with heavier warmer summer rainfall events there could be more fungal disease issues. HOWEVER as a non-expert my opinion counts for close to zero.

    The point of my post is that simple quick analyses of complex problems and issues often tell the wrong story. A balanced expert opinion is best. I wouldn’t ask a brain surgeon to do electrical work, my dentist for a weather forecast, or a botanist for a climate analysis. I certainly wouldn’t trust some random blogger that doesn’t present a balanced perspective for a creditable analysis of climate change.

    (ps this was a very quick analysis – and errors may have been made)

  5. George
    Even these ecologists can’t say with certainty why it’s happening.
    “We still don’t understand why the dieback is happening. We know it’s probably related to a combination of effects.”
    They then attribute the dieback to a ‘noticeable change in climate’.
    But there is really no noticeable change in the climate unless you think 0.2C is a significant change.
    By the way, most of the highest recorded temps happened in the 1970s/80s.
    www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_300004_All.shtml

    All we ‘random bloggers’ are doing is just pointing to the actual data and noting that their ‘noticeable change’ is not correct.

    Maybe they might find the answer by checking the isolated pathogens angle first- then check the rainfall data.

  6. Glad you mentioned this, George: “… or a botanist for a climate analysis”, because I read many an article, post, or paper that does just that. Botanists, zoologists and more, especially those with a CSIRO or University connection, keep adding their own, mostly wrong, climate analysis.
    Dieback is more often than not, a fungal disease, caused by people tramping all over the ground without taking quarantine practices seriously enough.
    Fungus spores, however, can be carried in many different ways, continent to continent, with the help of dust and wind. The latest pathogen to cause problems also appears unstoppable, a Myrtle rust, spreading in Eastern Australia, but without any mention of a ‘climate analysis’.

  7. “Maybe they might find the answer by checking the isolated pathogens angle first…”

    I agree….
    Thank god the dieback in the Western Australia Karri forests occurred long before climate change was fabricated, so some real scientific research was conducted to find the cause.

  8. It looks like my comment disappeared. George, your comment “… or a botanist for a climate analysis …” is wrong. I have countless posts on my blog castigating botanists, zoologists and more for doing just that. It appears to be a proviso of CSIRO posts, articles and papers to include their interpretation of the AGW catastrophe, without even checking the real facts and data that can easily be found.

  9. Dieback is one of the diseases caused by fungal pathogens, most of which are distributed through spores attached to clothing, boots and equipment. Some travel easily between continents in dust and storms, however the quarantine procedures for remote areas such as this may not be enough.
    The latest to hit Australia is the fast spreading Myrtle Rust, spreading through Eastern States now, and regarded as probably unstoppable.
    The WA Jarrah forests are still suffering from dieback decades later. Another is a form of dieback in Rivergum Trees that may be cured by the simple task of hammering in an iron spike.
    None of these pathogens care less about ‘climate change’.
    This is my third comment, the other two? Who knows.

  10. Of note is the pest eradication program seems to coincide with the problem. Ironic if pathogens introduced were responsible.

  11. The likely cause?…www.tia.tas.edu.au/news/upcoming-events-home/event-items/tia-sas-seminar-series5

    Dr Morag Glen, Senior Research Fellow, Perennial Horticulture Centre, TIA
    “Dieback on Macquarie Island”
    Abstract: Azorella dieback on Macquarie Island. A. macquariensis is a keystone species of the dominant feldmark vegetation on Macquarie Island. In recent years it has suffered from a severe dieback yet no causal agent could be isolated. In an attempt to determine whether a potential pathogen is associated with the die-back next-generation sequence technologies were used to characterise fungal bacterial and oomycete communities associated with healthy and die-back affected plants. A species of Rosellinia was the most frequently detected fungal species overall and was strongly associated with roots and rhizosphere soil of die-back affected plants. While Koch’s postulates must be fulfilled to demonstrate that this pathogen is a primary cause of the die-back on Macquarie Island, this finding provides strong evidence to support this hypothesis. Current attempts to isolate the pathogen responsible for Azorella dieback include techniques and semi-selective media suitable for this genus.
    About the Speaker: Morag is a molecular biologist and mycologist with an interest in forest health, biodiversity and biosecurity of natural ecosystems as well as plantations. Current work is focussed mainly on root rots and rusts.

  12. MarcH – I hate it when I’m accidently right “An untested and most likely wrong hypothesis is that with heavier warmer summer rainfall events there could be more fungal disease issues”

    Tom – You both agreed with me and disagreed with me over the same quote “or a botanist for a climate analysis”. Does that make me 50% right, or 50% wrong?

    All – be wary of simplistic climate arguments – average rainfall and temperature can remain the same – but the climate can change significantly. As I noted in my superficial and crude analysis, recent summers have been characterised by heavy rainfall events with a larger number of warm daytime conditions. This could provide suitable conditions for the pathogen to become more active. Noting of course that correlation does not equal causation.

  13. Compare the 2 graphs with the thought in mind that “rain cools”.
    The BOM historic raw data show that Macquarie Island temperatures flat lined for the 30 years to 2010. Haven’t looked later than that.

  14. Geoff

    Here is GISS NASA’s data graph for Macquarie Is mean temps 1948-2013.
    data.giss.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/gistemp/show_station.cgi?id=501949980000&dt=1&ds=14

    Definitely cooler in the past 5 years, especially compared to the 1970s/80s when it had its highest recorded daily temps.

    George
    Just checking your comment about heavier summer rain. In the past 5 years there have been 2 days of over 30ml. The last time there was a +30ml event was Feb, 2011. In 1983/84/85 there were 4 days of +30mls (2 in Dec 1984 alone.)
    Actually, it seems to rain nearly every day down there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>