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CRC for Forestry > Research programs > Managing and monitoring for growth and health > Modelling and risk assessment for new environments

Modelling and risk assessment for new environments (Project 1.4)

The area under plantations in northern Australia has increased rapidly since the mid-1990s, much of it on soils and into climates that are outside historical plantation management experience. The estate now covers a wide range of latitudes and many challenging geographic conditions: extreme weather conditions of cyclonic winds, heavy rainfall and flooding in the north; and risks of droughts and heavy frosts in the south. Predicting rotation-length outcomes under these circumstances is difficult, and extrapolating from experience in one region with a particular set of geographic conditions to another region with different geographic conditions is unwise. In many cases, the physiological and disturbance events that determine the outcomes are very different from those in southern and Mediterranean climates where experience is rich. 

To this challenge is added the prospect of climate change—predicted to manifest itself in creating drier, hotter environments where plantations are grown and, perhaps more importantly, in creating greater annual climatic variability and more extreme events or seasons.

This project focused on developing sufficient understanding of the physiological and environmental determinants of growth and profitable plantation development in our northern climate. The aim was to use this knowledge to develop not only expected plantation performance, but also to try to analyse the probable impact on plantation success of low-frequency climatic events such as frost, drought or cyclone damage.

The project worked to achieve these goals by focusing on a few key and typical plantation species: Eucalyptus pellita (grown in plantations in the humid tropics of the Northern Territory and north Queensland and the South Pacific), and E. dunnii and Corymbia citriodora subsp. variegata (both planted extensively in the subtropics of New South Wales, Queensland and internationally).

The aim was to use this understanding to parameterise and, if necessary, structurally modify, an existing physiology-based model, CABALA (Carbon Balance). CABALA links carbon, water and nitrogen fluxes and pools to predict growth under changed environmental conditions and is particularly well suited to scenario modelling to estimate variability and risk once site and species parameterisation has been undertaken. The knowledge gained from applying this approach to CABALA can be translated rapidly to other process-based models.

The leader of Project 1.4 was Dr Mila Bristow (DEEDI, Qld).


Estimation of the belowground carbon pool in plantation spotted gum
Poster presentation by PhD student Adam Smith, University of the Sunshine Coast, for the CRC for Forestry Annual Science Meeting 2010 [pdf 3.6 Mb]

Staff of Project 1.4

Dr Michael Battaglia – CSIRO

Dr Mila Bristow – Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation

Jody Bruce – CSIRO

Bruce Hogg – Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation

David Osborne – Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation

Dr Libby Pinkard – CSIRO

Scott Swift – Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation