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Listen to find out how a mysterious dieback is killing the snow gum trees in the Snowy Mountains

The snow gum is in danger. Scientists believe a beetle is killing off the iconic tree in Kosciusko National Park and throughout the region, and it's not clear why.

ANU student Jozef Meyer points out a dieback affected snow gum in Koscziosko National Park. Picture: Kate Matthews

ANU student Jozef Meyer points out a dieback affected snow gum in Koscziosko National Park. Picture: Kate Matthews

The snow gum might be one of Australia's most recognisable trees. For many of us, it's a tree which symbolises the Australian alps, and the country's wild bush heritage. A frontier past which is slowly being forgotten.

A phoracantha beetle of the type thought to be killing all the snow gums. Picture: Kate Matthews

A phoracantha beetle of the type thought to be killing all the snow gums. Picture: Kate Matthews

A previous dieback on the Monaro Plain, a vast stretch of open cattle and sheep country in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, gives a glimpse of what the future of our alps could look like.

What happens if there is no way we can slow the insects as they gradually move across the landscape? Are we left with the scenario that that played out in the Monaro? That, yes, the outbreak ends, but it ends because there's nothing left for the insects to eat. And it's difficult not to be affected by that.

Dr Matthew Brookhouse from the ANU

The fear is that unless something is done, every tree above 1600 metres could be lost, and that could have profound effects for the entire ecosystem.

Ngarigo Elder Michelle Francis in front of dead ribbon gums near Berridale, NSW. Picture: Tom Melville

Ngarigo Elder Michelle Francis in front of dead ribbon gums near Berridale, NSW. Picture: Tom Melville

We investigate why snow gums are being attacked by an unprecedented plague, and how it's gone on so long unnoticed. We speak to the people trying to save our snow gums.

It effects our whole ecosystem. And they're here for a reason. Every plant has a job to do. So when one's removed what's next? It is very emotional.

Michelle Francis, Ngarigo Elder

If you think you might've spotted a phoracantha beetle anywhere in the country or a dieback affected snow gum in the Alps, go to saveoursnowgum.org to report your sightings.

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This story What's killing our Snow Gums? first appeared on Newcastle Herald.