Environment Magazine

Deforesting and Reforesting Australia

Posted on the 13 July 2011 by Bradshaw @conservbytes

A couple of weeks ago we (Andy Lowe and I) did a small interview on ABC television about the current status of Australia forests, followed by a discussion regarding our recently funded Australian Research Council Linkage Project Developing best-practice approaches for restoring forest ecosystems that are resilient to climate change. Just in case you didn’t see it, I’ve managed to upload a copy of the piece to Youtube.com and reproduce it here:

I’m actually in the process of writing a paper on all this for a special issue of Journal of Plant Ecology (that is nearly already overdue!), but here are a few facts for you in the interim:

  • Australian eucalypt forests are globally unique, with one of the longest evolutionary histories among the world’s forests
  • Australia has about 147 million ha of native forest remaining, and about 2 million ha of plantations
  • Australia has lost about 38 % of its forest cover since European settlement (~ 200 years ago), or 61,000 km2 (1.5 times the size of Tasmania)
  • In total, we have about 19 % of our landscape covered by native forest; 200 years ago, it was 30 %
  • Much of the remainder is highly modified; in fact, at least half of our forests have been cleared or heavily modified since Eur settlement
  • 80 % of remaining eucalypt forests have been modified by humans
  • 50 % of eucalypt forests in reserves have been logged at some time the past (and this increases to 90 % in certain areas such as north-eastern New South Wales)
  • Of 15 nations examined globally, Australia has the lowest remaining amount of closed-canopy forest: 4.6 %
  • Queensland has had the highest deforestation rates among the states in the latter half of the 20th Century
  • In the early part of the 20th Century, South Australia, then Western Australia had the highest rates
  • Only 15 % of our forests are currently protected in some manner (23 of 147 million ha)
  • In South Australia’s Mount Lofty Ranges, 90 % of the vegetation has been cleared since European settlement
  • The remaining patches of forest in the Mount Lofty Ranges average only 13 ha in size (this should be 2 orders of magnitude larger to prevent extinctions)
  • Currently, < 4 % of the vegetation present at European colonisation remains in the Adelaide plains
  • 132 species of plants and animals have gone extinct in the Adelaide region since 1836
  • The Adelaide region has lost 50 % of its native mammal species since that time
CJA Bradshaw

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