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CRC for Forestry > Newsletters > Biodiversity: BioBuzz > Issue ten (December 2009)

Biobuzz 10 (December 2009)

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Issue ten - December 2009 e-newsletter
BioBuzz - Biodiversity news

Hot Spot

Integrating forest values with landscape management

himlal baral thumb

Forests provide multiple ecosystem services and are vital to human well-being.  While the values of ecosystem services (eg, food, fibre, flood protection, clean water and clean air) have been recognised widely, they are rarely incorporated into planning and decision-making.  Proper classification, mapping and valuation of ecosystem services can play an important role in restoration planning and ecosystem-based management.  University of Melbourne PhD student, Himlal Baral, has developed a framework for classifying and mapping ecosystem services for a production landscape. 

­[read more]

Biodiversity Project Update

Brad Potts­­

The end of the year is often a time for reflection about where the year went, what we have achieved and what our goals for the future might be.  Project leader Professor Brad Potts summarises the considerable achievements of scientists in project 4.2 in 2008-2009.

­[read more]

What's On

Variable Retention Field Day

The CRC for Forestry and Forestry Tasmania will be co-hosting a field day in December 2009 to increase awareness, among invited colleagues from Tasmanian and Commonwealth agencies and research organisations working on conservation issues, of the science that underpins the emergence of variable retention harvesting as the ecological solution for biodiversity retention in commercial old growth wet eucalypt forests.  If you are a CRC member you can click here to find out more. 

Southern Connections Congress, Argentina 2010

Southern connections conference thumbnailSimon Grove, Mark Neyland (Forestry Tasmania) and Fred Duncan (Forest Practices Authority) will be attending the Southern Connections Congress in Bariloche, Argentina, in March 2010.  Simon will present a talk on "the role of long-term ecological research in guiding advances in silviculture: an example from Tasmania" in a symposium on the role of long-term research sites in studies of ecology, management and conservation of southern cool temperate forests.  Mark will be presenting the results of his recently submitted PhD: “Silvicultural performance of alternatives to clearfelling in lowland wet eucalypt forests: Findings from long-term research at Warra, Tasmania”. Learn more about the Southern Connections Congress.

CRC experts lead south American post-graduate course

After the Southern Connections Congress in Bariloche, Argentina, Simon Grove, Mark Neyland (Forestry Tasmania) and Fred Duncan (Forest Practices Authority) will head south to Terra del Fuego, Chile, to take up teaching roles in a post-graduate course on Forest Management and Biodiversity Conservation in Southern Cool Temperate Forest Ecosystems.  [view flyer]

International Phytophthora Conference

Rotorua, New Zealand, will be the steamy venue for IUFRO's fifth International meeting on Phyophthora diseases in forests and natural ecosystems, to be held in March 2010.  Dr Tim Wardlaw, Forestry Tasmania's forest health expert, will be there to present a talk on "the potential of sub-lethal growth effects from Phytophthora cinnamomi root infection of Eucalyptus nitens and implications for species-choice on sites suitable for growing either E. nitens or E. globulus".  Visit conference website.

Two biodiversity researchers invited to speak at Malaysian conference

Professor Brad Potts and Dr Dorothy Steane (UTAS) have been invited to speak at a IUFRO Conference to be held in Kuala Lumpur, March 7-12, 2010.  The conference will explore the sustainable use of forest genetic resources, with an emphasis on the contributions that genetics and genomics can make to forest management decisions. Brad will be presenting research results from subprojects 4.2.6 and 4.2.7 in a talk titled: "Assessing and managing the risk of genetic contamination from forest tree plantings: the case of Eucalyptus in Australia".  Dot will be talking about the "Application of Diversity Arrays Technology (DArT) in Eucalyptus phylogeny reconstruction: from populations to species" (view abstract).   [Visit conference website]

History of Innovation in Forestry

Forestry Tasmania recently published a book documenting the impact that science has had on the forest industry.  Compiled by Humphrey Elliott, Ken Felton, Jean Jarman and Martin Stone, A History of Innovation: Eighty-five Years of Research and Development at Forestry Tasmania documents the period between 1921 and 2006, tracing scientific developments from the time of hand-drawn maps through to the era of LIDAR.  You can find out more about the book by visiting the Forestry Tasmania website - or just by clicking here!

Elite scholarships for PhDs in Eucalyptus genetics

The University of Tasmania is offering generous scholarships to gifted, enthusiastic students.  The Elite Research Scholarships are valued at $30K per annum tax free and are available for three years, with a possible six-month extension.  There are scholarships for four PhD projects in Eucalyptus genetics:

What's Been On

Clarke Medallist profiled by ABC's Stateline

ABC Filming BradLike a pebble thrown into a pond, the after-effects of Brad Potts' prestigious Clarke Medal award (see article in Biobuzz 8, April 2009) are still being felt across Tasmania.  ABC Stateline's TV crew visited the UTAS School of Plant Science  in August to profile Brad Potts and his research.  Brad, being the generous person that he is, shared the publicity around by including as many of his team in the spotlight as he possibly could, with visits to SeedEnergy's Cambridge Arboretum, the UTAS glass houses, the main eucalypt lab as well as the molecular lab.  [read the transcript from ABC Stateline]

Mammalogical Congress

In August, UTAS PhD student Helen Stephens attended the 10th International Mammalogical Congress in Mendoza, Argentina. The congress is held only once every four years and this was the first time it had been hosted in South America.  In the lead up to the conference Helen spent a week in the Sierra de las Quijadas National Park, in a desert north-east of Mendoza, assisting with "fear" research in, among other things, armadillos and strange long-legged rodents.

[read more]

Ecological Restoration Conference

bb10 ecological conferenceA contingent of eight CRC researchers attended the 19th Conference of the Society for Ecological Restoration International (SERI) in Perth Western Australia in August (go to conference website).  The conference was titled "Making Change in a Changing World".  As restoration ecology is a relative new scientific discipline, meetings of this magnitude are important platforms to assist the restoration community in defining the principles of restoration, understanding goals and milestones, debating what ecosystem functions to measure and closing the gap between the science of restoration ecology and the practice of ecological restoration.

[read more]

IFA Biennial Conference

Himlal Baral, a PhD student at UMELB, recently attended the biennial conference of the Institute of Foresters of Australia, held in sunny Caloundra, Queensland.  The conference was attended by about 350 delegates and included over 50 oral paper presentations, student poster presentations, plenary panel discussions and diverse field days, all focussed on the impact of climate change on forests and forest management.

[read more]

CRC student wins award at "Darwin 200"

The 9th Invertebrate Biodiversity and Conservation conference was held jointly with the Entomological Society's 40th AGM and Scientific conference, and the Society of Australian Systematic Biologists Conference in Darwin in September (go to conference website). The combined conference, called "Darwin 200: Evolution and Biodiversity", celebrated 150 years since the release of The Origin of the Species and 200 years since the birth of Charles Darwin. It was also the 170th anniversary of the naming of Port of Darwin during the 3rd voyage of the Beagle. Over 185 delegates from all around the world congregated in Darwin to present 177 seminars and 25 posters. Cheryl O'Dwyer (UMELB) gave an oral presentation on her PhD results (view abstract) and a poster on some additional work on Golden sun moths (view abstract).  Cheryl won the "best student presentation" award.  Well done, Cheryl!

Ecology in a Changing Climate: Two Hemispheres - One Globe

bb10 bryony horton thumbnailThe Ecological Societies of Australia and New Zealand hosted the 10th International Congress of Ecology in Brisbane in August this year. The theme of the conference was 'Ecology in a changing climate: two hemispheres - one globe'.  UTAS PhD student, Bryony Horton, presented an impressive three posters relating to her fungal research.

[read more]

Australasian Wildlife Management Conference

Tim WardlawAt the end of November this year, four researchers from the browsing management research project travelled to Napier in New Zealand to attend the 2009 annual Australasian Wildlife Management Conference. Julianne O'Reilly-Wapstra hosted a symposium entitled “Mitigating impacts of pest species through non-lethal management strategies.” Twelve speakers from Australia and New Zealand (including Julianne) presented spoken papers in the session. Tim Wardlaw (Forestry Tasmania) presented the plenary talk, discussing Forestry Tasmania's abandonment of 1080-based control of marsupial browsing and the challenges of replacing 1080 with an integrated management strategy, charting the course from policy triggers and research aspiration to operational practicalities.  Natasha Wiggins and Alison Miller presented aspects of their research funded by the TCFA Alternatives to 1080 Programme. [Click here to visit conference website or view abstracts: Julianne, Natasha, Alison, Tim]

Giant trees take part in Big Adventure

bb10 Trees in the StyxThe Giant Trees Consultative Committee took at trip to the Styx Valley last month to assess signage for the giant trees and to check out the new facilities for Forestry Tasmania's "Adventure Hub".  On the way there Prof Brad Potts was introduced to a long lost tribe of  ...

[read more]

Subproject 4.2.1 Biodiversity benefits of alternatives to clearfelling

ARN News

Aggregated retention thumbnail

­After just six aggregated retention (ARN) coupes were completed in 2009, 2010 is shaping as a big year, depending - of course - on the weather during the autumn burning season.

[read more]


Alternatives to clearfelling - comparative study completed

Neyland thumbnail

­­Mark Neyland who works at Forestry Tasmania is also enrolled as a PhD student at UTAS.  Mark recently submitted his PhD thesis that examined the response of vegetation to a range of harvesting methods for tall wet eucalypt forests that could be used as alternatives to clearfelling.  The study took place over ten years at the Warra silvicultural systems trial in southern Tasmania. Click here to read Mark's thesis abstract.­


When the going gets tough, the cutting grass gets going!

bb10-styx-overview-thumb­­Liam Hindrum recently completed his Honours degree at UTAS.  After working last summer for Forestry Tasmania in aggregated retention coupes, Liam became interested in the effects of mechanical disturbance (eg, machinery tracks, snig tracks etc.) and burn intensity on the floristic composition of regrowth and took the opportunity to do an Honours project on the topic.  Among other things, Liam discovered that cutting grass (Gahnia grandis) out-competes other plants on compressed earth ... which might explain why eucalypt trials in southern Tasmania are often such a nightmare to visit!

[read more]

Helen wins animal-friendly grant

bb10 Helen Stephens thumbnailCongratulations go to UTAS PhD student Helen Stephens who was recently awarded a $20,000 grant from the W V Scott Charitable Trust.  The trust was established in 1986 to assist with "the promotion and encouragement of kindness towards animals or wildlife or the protection and preservation of animals or wildlife or the protection of endangered species of animals or wildlife...".  Helen will use her grant to fund the second stage of her project: “Impacts of an alternative logging practice, aggregated retention, on two native rodents, the swamp rat (Rattus lutreolus) and long-tailed mouse (Pseudomys higginsi)”.

Student update

With theses submitted, publications in preparation, graduations and grant success the students in 4.2.1 are shining examples for the rest of us.

[read more].

Subproject 4.2.2 Biodiversity outcomes from plantation expansion into agricultural and native forest landscapes

Comparative influence of edge type on temperate woodland function

bb10 tom wright thumb

­­Tom Wright is on the verge of submitting his PhD thesis to the graduate studies office at the University of Melbourne.  His research focussed on the function of temperate woodland ecosystems in plantation landscapes in the Green Triangle Plantation Region. The main objectives of Tom's project were to understand how ecosystem processes - in particular, microclimate, gas exchange and water relations - at woodland edges function when adjoined by mature plantations compared to traditional agricultural land.

[read more]

Using soil microbes as indicators of remnant forest health

bb10 kasia bialkowski thumb­­Kasia Bialkowski (Murdoch University) is half-way through her PhD project on managing soil microbes for biodiversity conservation in native vegetation remnants within blue gum plantations.  One of the focuses of the research has been to determine the importance of soil microbial activities in the regulation of above-ground plant community composition, with the aim to manipulate it towards decreasing grass understory in favour of native species in degraded remnant.

[read more]

Student update

Tanya Bailey thumbnailSubproject 4.2.2 is the largest of the Biodiversity subprojects and the students are spread across Australia.  Click here to learn more about their varied research interests and progress.­


­Subproject 4.2.3 Biodiversity value of coarse woody debris

Regeneration time is critical for maintenance of cryptogam biodiversity


­Belinda Browning (UTAS) recently completed her Masters thesis on “the influence of forest age and log decay on cryptogam succession in wet eucalypt forest following clearfell, burn and sow harvesting”. Her study of cryptogam succession over time after first rotation logging suggested that these communities follow a successional pathway similar to one that would occur after natural wildfire disturbance.  Bindi suggested that successive harvesting events based on rotations even as long as 100 years could result in the loss of some cryptogam species from a forest community.  Bindi will be graduating in December - congratulations, Bindi!

Read Bindi's thesis abstract.

New directions for CWD research

­­With much of the fine-scale coarse woody debris (CWD) research nearing completion, CWD team members are working hard to "spread the word" and implement their research findings.  Meanwhile, the next phase of the research is gathering momentum.  CWD research is moving away from fine-scale studies towards studies that examine the ways in which dependent biota use CWD in the landscape.

[read more]

Student update

Two down ... one to go.  The students from the deadwoodology group are scattering in different directions - two degrees are in hand and one more PhD student is sprinting towards the finish line.

[read more]

Subproject 4.2.4 Tools for monitoring and assessing biodiversity

Hot new tool for genetic studies

bb10 Dart thumbnailA research team comprising scientists from UTAS/CRC, Brazil, South Africa in collaboration with an Austalian biotech company have developed a set of highly polymorphic "DArT" markers in Eucalyptus that have diverse applications in a range of genetic studies.  These high-throughput genome-wide markers will greatly accelerate the process of gene discovery, are great for population genetic studies and will potentially allow rapid and relatively inexpensive resolution of previously intractable phylogenetic questions within Eucalyptus ...

[read more]

Is there anything in that hole?

Dr Amy Koch (Forest Practices Authority) has been working with other Forest Practices Officers on the development of a new approach to the management of the tree hollow resource in areas covered by the Tasmanian Forest Practices system. This work is still in the development stage but it is hoped that new guidelines for forest planners can be finalized in 2010. As part of the management strategy, Amy has developed a guide ("Tree Hollows in Tasmania") to help field-workers identify the trees that are most likely to be used by hollow-dependent species.

­[click here to download booklet]

Tree decline toolbox

­bb10 Tree Decline thumbnail

­The ‘Tree Decline Toolbox’ is an innovative new interactive computer program designed to assist farmers manage forest at risk of tree decline.  Toolbox Version 1.0 is a pilot version distributed to gain input and advice from workshop groups so the program can be improved.  The toolbox is the culmination of 10 years of research into tree decline in the Midlands of Tasmania.

[read more]

Subproject 4.2.5 Management of forest species of high conservation significance, including threatened species

Microchips for microbats

bb10 flynn thumb ­

Lisa Cawthen, PhD student at UTAS, was recently awarded a grant from the Norman Wettenhall Foundation that Lisa will spend on microchips that will allow her to identify each bat individually ...

[read more

Resource availability critical factor for mammal populations

bb10 flynn thumb

­Erin Flynn recently presented her final seminar for her doctoral degree.  Erin's research on the effects of forest type and habitat disturbance on the common brushtail possum showed that, although the abundance of some habitat components changed significantly with harvesting, resource availability in the surrounding landscape appears to mitigate the effects of harvesting on ground-dwelling mammals.

[read more]

What is the best way to catch a quoll?

bb10 flynn quoll thumb Following very low spotted-tailed quoll capture rates in north-west Tasmania during her first major stint of field data collection, UTAS PhD student Shannon Troy is now testing the efficacy of four spotted-tailed quoll ­survey methods ...

[read more]


Tree ferns go AWOL

bb10-dismal-swamp-thumbWhilst the resilience of tree ferns is probably no surprise to most (as they’re often among the first signs of green returning to a logged coupe), you may be surprised by just how much they move around during a logging operation. Researchers at the Forest Practices Authority have found that 60-70% of the ‘tagged’ ferns in their monitoring plots went missing, never to be seen again. Nina Roberts (Forest Practices Authority) reports ...

[read more]

Student update

 Click here to find out more about what the Subproject 4.2.5 students have been up to recently.

Subproject 4.2.6 Management of the risk of gene flow from eucalypt plantations

New trials test fitness of exotic hybrids

bb10 exotic hybrids thumbShining gum (Eucalyptus nitens) is native to New South Wales and Victoria but is used widely in Tasmania as a plantation species.  A close relative of Tasmanian blue gum, it is possible that Eucalytus nitens has the potential to hybridise with wild populations of native Tasmanian species that grow in the vicinity of E. nitens plantations.  Two trials will be established in late 2009 to investigate the viability of exotic E. nitens hybrids.

[read more]

Student update

bb10 - My AbasoloSubproject 4.2.6 has a new student.  Myralyn Abasolo recently came from the Philippines to undertake a PhD at  Southern Cross University.  My will be studying the risk of gene flow from Corymbia plantations into native vegetation ...

[read more]

Subproject 4.2.7 Management of genetic resources

Genetic data reveal taxonomic anomaly

The choice of genetic material for tree breeding relies on accurate taxonomic information. Traditional morphology-based classifications of eucalypts can be misleading, however, because of difficulties in partitioning taxa that have continuous morphological variation that has arisen through interspecific hybridisation and/or evolutionary convergence.  Three closely related species of red mahogony,  E. pellita, E. resinifera and E. scias display such morphological continuity.  Son Le, an MSc student at Southern Cross University, studied underlying genetic affinities of these three species and discovered that perhaps they are really only two species.

[read more]

Forest giants take refuge

The world famous giant ash, the world's tallest angiosperm, Eucalyptus regnans, is a bit more delicate than we might think.  It likes quite a lot of water and thrives in wet, montane environments; it does not cope well with drought or fire; and unlike most eucalypts E. regnans regenerates mainly from seed.  But in the not-too-distant past, southeastern Australia experienced a series of climatic oscillations between warm, wet conditions and cold, arid conditions.  So how did our delicate E. regnans cope with all this climate change?  Paul Nevill, a PhD student at the University of Melbourne, recently published a paper explaining how he found the answers in the DNA ... 

[read more]

Another PhD in the bag!

bb10 Bec and her thesisAt present the CRC's biodiversity students are submitting their theses like there is no tomorrow.  One recent submission was by CRC-affiliated UTAS student Rebecca Jones who studied the "Molecular evolution and genetic control of flowering in the Eucalyptus globulus species complex".  Her excellent thesis impressed the critical eyes of her two examiners and so Beck will graduate in full regalia in December.  Congratulations Dr Jones!  [read Beck's abstract]

Student update

The students in subproject 4.2.7 are winding up and moving on.  Click here to catch your final glimpses of the current cohort.

Subproject 4.2.8 Integrated management of browsing mammals

What do Canadian deer and Australian wallabies have in common?

bb10 - Julianne thumb ­

­­They lov­e to eat plantations! And so has began a productive international collaboration between the browsing research group at UTAS and John Russel from the British Columbia Ministry of Forests and Range.  Julianne O'Reilly-Wapstra explains ...

[read more]

Rising Star

­bb10 Julianne thumbnail

­Dr Julianne O'Reilly Wapstra was recently awarded a UTAS Rising Stars Award to the value of $75,000 over three years. The purpose of this program is to nurture research talent among staff at Levels B to C. Fifteen Rising Stars were awarded last year, while eight were awarded in this year’s program. As well as receiving funds, successful applicants will also receive advice on academic career development and leadership through several professional development programs run over the three year period.  Well done ... and shine on, Julianne!

Browsing trials generate data

Browsing research team members, Alison Miller, Hugh Fitzgerald and Helen Stephens spent much of October assessing the progress of trees planted 2 years ago as part of a TCFA funded trial into non-lethal alternatives to 1080.

[read more]

Subproject 4.2.9 Lethal trap trees

Testing the trap trees

bb10-bucket trapsWith spring well and truly sprung in Tasmania, the chrysomelid leaf beetles are warming up and flexing their wings, with their sights firmly set - we hope! - on some juicy plantation trees (especially juicy this year after the heavy spring rain). Meanwhile, the researchers are frantically preparing for the onslaught.

[read more]

Subproject 4.2.10 Improving Mycosphaerella leaf disease resistance in Eucalyptus globulus

How disease susceptible are Eucalyptus globulus x nitens hybrids?

myco-figure-thumbTasmanian blue gum, Eucalyptus globulus, is generally considered to be more susceptible to Mycosphaerella leaf disease than its close relative, the shining gum (E. nitens).  This has lead to shining gum being planted in preference to blue gum in many lower altitude areas of high disease risk in Tasmania.  However, there is only one published study in which the two species have been compared directly.  Brad Potts and Paul Tilyard report on emerging results from a new trial in north western Tasmania, where the results differ significantly from the published literature ...

[read more]

Subproject 4.4 Integrated Pest Management Group (Western Australia and Green Triangle)

IPMG - abuzz with change

bb10 - Francisco Tovar thumbAfter ten years of operation in Western Australia, the Industry Pest Management Group (IPMG) is 'moulting' into a new configuration. Newly appointed IPMG research scientist Francisco Tovar (Murdoch University) is excited about increasing collaborative links between IPMG and other CRC projects, industry and community. ­

[read more]

Related sites

Forest Practices Authority


The editor of BioBuzz is Dr Dorothy Steane. Please contact Dot with any feedback or with your ideas for BioBuzz 11 (April 2010).