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CRC for Forestry > Newsletters > Biodiversity: BioBuzz > Issue twelve (August 2010)

Biobuzz 12 (August 2010)


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Issue twelve - August 2010 e-newsletter
BioBuzz - Biodiversity news­

­ Hot spot

Time-travel on rotting logs­

Logs rotting on the forest floor, also known as coarse woody debris (CWD), provide us with a historical record of past disturbance events and can give us an idea of what the forests were like at the time of those disturbances. This is a key early finding from a Forestry Tasmania study (with funding support from Forest and Wood Products Australia) that is examining how current management is contributing to maintaining mature-forest biodiversity in production forest landscapes. [read more]

What's on

European Conference on Ecological Restoration

The seventh European Conference on Ecological Restoration will be held in Avignon, France, at the end of August [visit conference website].  Kasia Bialkowski (PhD student, Murdoch University) will be attending to present her research on using chemical and biological soil properties to monitor the progress of restoration in native woodlands [click here to read Kasia's abstract].  

Ornithologists migrate to Brazil for International Congress

'Birdos' from all over the world will descend upon Sao Paulo, Brazil, in late August to attend the 25th International Ornithological Congress [conference website].  University of Melbourne PhD student Mayumi Knight will be joining the migration to present her research on 'Bird communities and biodiversity conservation in complex landscapes of farmland, tree plantations and embedded remnant forest'.  Click here to read Mayumi's abstract. 

Combining silviculture and genetics to overcome environmental stresses in eucalypts

The productivity of each rotation of Eucalyptus plantation worldwide has increased by 10–20% as a result of major advances in silviculture and genetics.  This trend will continue only if we develop fundamentally new ways to combine silviculture and genetics research and apply them via adequately planned operations that are sensitive to economical, social and environmental sustainability.  Join in what promises to be a lively discussion that will take place at an IUFRO meeting in Brazil in November 2011.  Click here to download invitation.

Eucalyptus symposia at the International Botanical Congress 2011

Plant scientists should seriously consider attending the International Botanical Congress next July when it will be held in Melbourne.  There will be at least two symposia about Eucalyptus that are being co-organised by CRC biodiversity researchers.  Prof. Bill Foley (ANU), Prof. Brad Potts and Assoc. Prof. René Vaillancourt will organise a symposium on the Eucalyptus genome and Dr Dorothy Steane will co-chair a symposium on Patterns and Processes in Eucalyptus Evolution.  This is a rare opportunity to attend a very big, truly international conference close to home. Registrations are now open and abstracts may be submitted until 31 October 2010.   [visit conference website]

Churchill Fellowship for genomic researcher

Former CRC student Dr Rebecca Jones has been awarded a prestigious Churchill Fellowship.  Beck will spend six weeks visiting key research centres in Europe and the USA to learn the latest techniques for analysing genomic data—in particular, the Eucalyptus genome.  [read more]

Community genetics experts establish research program at UTAS

­The overlapping disciplines of 'community genetics' and 'community and ecosystem ecology' have received a boost in research capacity at UTAS. Associate Professor Joe Bailey and  Dr Jennifer Schweitzer recently joined UTAS from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and are keen to develop research links across Australia. Both Joe and Jen are ecologists with particular interest in the effect that genetics has on communities and ecosystems, from effects among trees down to interactions between organisms and soils.  [read more]

Treefern research projects for students

The harvesting of the commercially valuable treefern (Dicksonia antarctica) from approved logging coupes is regulated in Tasmania by the Forest Practices Authority (FPA). The FPA is interested in furthering knowledge of the role of Dicksonia in the ecology of the state’s wet forests so as to inform the future management of tree ferns as a forest resource.  Several areas of research suitable for student research projects have been identified that will complement the FPA’s own treefern research. Student grants of $1000 to assist with field expenses or other project costs will be made available to suitable candidates undertaking these projects. In-kind support such as field assistance and/or co-supervision may also be available from the FPA. [read more]

World Forestry Institute Fellowships—apply any time!

World Forestry Institute Fellowships thumbnailThe World Forestry Institute's International Fellowship Program sponsors professionals in natural resources—such as foresters, environmental educators, land managers, NGO practitioners and researchers—to conduct a practical research project, over 6–12 months, at the World Forestry Centre in Portland, Oregon, USA.  In addition to projects, fellows participate in weekly field trips, interviews and site visits to Northwest forestry organisations, state, local and national parks, universities, public and private timberlands, trade associations, mills and corporations.  The fellowship is a unique opportunity to learn about sustainable forestry from the Pacific Northwest forestry sector, and to work with colleagues from around the world.  Fellowships are open to citizens of any country (including the USA) and there is a matching grant from the Harry A. Merlo Foundation.  The Gottstein Trust may also assist with funding for Australian fellows.  [read more about WFI fellowships]

What's been on

Integrated pest management a popular choice

It seems that everyone is keen to control those pesky plantation pests and diseases.  A group of forest industry workers and CRC researchers got together the day before the CRC's Annual Science Meeting to discuss how to manage the health of plantations ... [read more]

Chiropterology conference delights bat enthusiasts

Chiropterology student Lisa Cawthen recently escaped the southern winter for a week of batty interaction in Darwin, Northern Territory.  The 14th Australasian Bat Society conference attracted 110 delegates who discussed a broad range of bat-related topics ranging from bats in plantation forestry landscapes through to bat IVF and paleoecology.  [read Lisa's full conference report]

Soil scientists get dirty downunder

The 19th World Congress of Soil Science was held in Brisbane recently (1–7 August 2010). The meeting is organised once every four years by the International Union of Soil Sciences. This year the congress’s theme was 'Soil solutions for a changing world'.  The subject matter ranged from nutrient cycling to extra-terrestrial soil science.  Kasia Bialkowski, a PhD student at Murdoch University, seized the opportunity to attend.  [read more]

Report of the George River water quality panel

Earllier this year concerns were raised about the impact of Eucalyptus plantations on water quality in the George River catchment in north-eastern Tasmania.  The report of the George River water quality panel has now been released.

You can read the report here.

CRC geneticists join expert consultative panel

CRC researchers Prof. Brad Potts, Dr Chris Harwood and Assoc. Prof. René Vaillancourt attended a two-day workshop in Canberra at the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator to help prepare an international OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) biology document on eucalypts.  Australia, Brazil and Japan are the lead countries involved in producing the document. The Eucalyptus document will initially focus on the nine main eucalypt species that are used in hybrid breeding programs and plantations around the world. The workshop included both national and international eucalypt experts.

Odd spot

Near-glorious coincidence

Last summer, a Eucalyptus nitens plantation in northern Tasmania was attacked by a very beautiful species of chrysomelid beetle, thought to be Paropsisterna gloriosa.  Although native to Tasmania, this species was considered to be rather rare ... but things are changing!  [read more]

Subproject 4.2.1 Biodiversity benefits of alternatives to clearfelling

Mammal research continues to attract funding

High-quality, relevant research tends to attract funding, so it is reassuring to hear that Helen Stephens has once again been funded by the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment for the third year in a row and was recently award a substantial grant for her genetic research by the Winifred Violet Scott Charitable Trust. [read more]


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

Soil nitrogen critical factor for native remnant restoration

­Many Australian native plants have adapted to grow in low nutrient soils, so much so that high levels of nitrogen or phosphorous in soils can cause sickness and even death of these plants.  A study of soil chemistry in forest remnants in a plantation landscape in Western Australia has shown that most remnants with weeds will remain in a degraded state even after the removal of stock and establishment of eucalypt plantations because of the high level of nitrogen in the soil.  However, there may be a simple remedy for this problem ...  [read more]

Bird diversity in plantation landscape varies with remnant vegetation

A team of ornithologists at Murdoch University have been assessing the influence that understorey has on bird communities in a plantation landscape in south-west Western Australia.  They have found significant differences among remnants with native understorey, remants with weedy understorey and plantations.  [read more]

Forest margins vary with land use

Tom Wright (University of Melbourne) has published some research findings from his recently submitted PhD.  While the microclimates found on forest margins are well-described for closed forests, they remain under-examined in more sparse vegetation types like Eucalyptus woodlands.  This limits predictions of edge effects on remnant vegetation in cleared agricultural landscapes and of changes in these effects with plantation establishment.  Tom found that the effect of plantations on woodland microclimates was contrary to that observed in closed forests. These findings were highlighted in an article in a previous issue of Biobuzz (December 2009) and are now available in detail:

Wright TE, Kasel S, Tausz M, Bennett LT (2010) Edge microclimate of temperate woodlands as affected by adjoining land use. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 150: 1138–1146.

If you have access to this journal you may read Tom's article here.

Student update

While one PhD student awaits his examiners' reports, five other postgraduates continue to juggle thesis writing, publication, conferences and outside work commitments.  Read about their latest exploits ...  [click here]

Subproject 4.2.3 Biodiversity value of coarse woody debris

Personnel update

There have been significant changes in CWD (coarse woody debris) personnel over the past month. Gregoire Thauvin, a French intern student, has returned home after six months of measuring logs in the southern forests. Simon Grove is back at work after four months of battling leukaemia ... and winning!  Welcome back, Simon!

Comparing biodiversity outcomes of various management regimes

There has been a lot of activity in a FWPA-funded study being done in the Southern Forests Experimental Forest Landscape. The study is examining how current management is contributing to mature-forest biodiversity. Gregoire Thauvin analysed all of the coarse woody debris data and the team has produced a draft report of the results. A condensed account of the findings features in this issue's 'Hot spot'.


First Australian measurements of carbon loss from forested catchments

­A UTAS Honours student has been examining the temporal and spatial variation of organic carbon in small head water streams.  Ian Riley, who recently completed his Honours thesis, is modelling the processes and rates by which forest carbon is mobilised and transported through the hydrological cycle.  This is the first time that this has been done for an Australian forested water catchment ... [read more]


Student update

Belinda Yaxley is writing her PhD thesis (see Belinda's article in BioBuzz 11).

Subproject 4.2.4 Tools for monitoring and assessing biodiversity

Assessing the likelihood of wildling spread from forest tree plantings

Containing germplasm to planting sites and minimising the risk of weeds are major challenges associated with using non-local plants in agriculture, forestry, revegetation and ornamental plantings.  The Future Farm Industries CRC has developed a protocol for assessing the level of weed risk that species pose to the natural environment ...  [read more]

Tools for monitoring woodland restoration

A combination of chemical and biological soil properties may be a sensitive monitoring tool for tracking the progress of restoration in native woodland remnants.  Kasia Bialkowski (Murdoch University) presented a paper on this topic at the seventh European Conference on Ecological Restoration held recently in France. [read Kasia's abstract]

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

Uncovering the secret life of Tasmanian Masked Owls

The Tasmanian Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae castanops) is Tasmania’s largest nocturnal bird of prey and the largest of the world’s barn owls. It is listed as an endangered species in Tasmania and has a breeding population estimated at 1100 individuals.  Michael Todd's PhD research on the ecological requirements of these charismatic birds is nearing its culmination ...  [read more]

Student update

The students of Subproject 4.2.5 continue to do some of the most entertaining work around.  And they keep on attracting funding: congratulations go to Lisa Cawthen who has been successful in obtaining a very generous grant from the Winifred Violet Scott Charitable Trust.  Learn more about all the students by clicking here!

­ ­

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

Just how promiscuous are blue gums?

It has long been recognised that closely related eucalypt species often have weak reproductive barriers that allow inter-specific hybridisation to occur.  Hence, there is some concern that the burgeoning blue gum plantation estate in southern Australia could result in some 'un-natural' hybrids. But what, exactly, is the risk? UTAS PhD student Matt Larcombe investigates ... [read more]

Serendipitous opportunity to study exotic hybrid establishment

Since 2006 UTAS researchers have been monitoring the gene flow from exotic E. nitens plantations into native Tasmanian species of Eucalyptus.  A  fire recently burnt part of a rare E. perriniana population that is surrounded by exotic E. nitens plantation, providing a serendipitous opportunity to monitor the germination, survival and establishment in situ of seedlings that may—or may not—be hybrids of the exotic E. nitens.  Matt Larcombe reports ... [read more]

Subproject 4.2.7 Management of genetic resources

Inbreeding can be lethal

Inbreeding is one of the key factors that can reduce the productivity of eucalypt plantations, whether they are grown for pulp or carbon.  This message was reinforced recently for Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus), which has produced the highest level of inbreeding depression yet reported for a eucalypt.  [read more]

Subproject 4.2.8  Integrated management of browsing mammals

Marsupial herbivores, sawflies, leaf beetles and leaf pathogens: Do they have anything in common?

In short, yes: they all like to feed on Eucalyptus. Eucalypt species produce complex chemicals to defend themselves from attack by numerous pests, but it is unclear whether one suite of defensive chemicals will provide protection from a range of pests, or whether each pest requires a different defensive strategy.  Dr Julianne O'Reilly-Wapstra (University of Tasmania) and colleagues are trying to answer this question.  [read more]

Subproject 4.2.9 Lethal trap trees

Trap plots attract lots of target beetles

Plots of trap trees in the middle of Eucalyptus nitens plantations are proving their worth by attracting large numbers of pesky leaf beetles (Paropsisterna bimaculata) away from the main plantation crop, without affecting other beetle species. [read more]


Subproject 4.2.10  Improving Mycosphaerella leaf disease resistance in Eucalyptus globulus

Early phase change may protect against Mycosphaerella leaf disease

­'Phase change' in eucalypts refers to the change from  juvenile to adult form and often includes dramatic changes in leaf morphology and physiology.  The process and timing of phase change in Tasmanian blue gum (E. globulus) fundamentally affects its interaction with pathogens and pest species in natural and plantation environments.  Mycosphaerella leaf disease tends to affect juvenile foliage, so it is logical that early transition to adult foliage may allow a tree to reduce foliar damage from this disease. Scientists at Forestry Tasmania and UTAS examined the genetic variation in the timing of phase change in E. globulus and how this related to variation in juvenile foliage susceptibility to Mycosphearella leaf disease. [read more]

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

New-look IPMG workshop a sign of future progress

The aim of the Integrated Pest Management Group (IPMG) is to integrate pest management strategies for the benefit of the forest industry.  A recent workshop held in Western Australia as an adjunct to the CRC's Annual Science meeting demonstrated that the IPMG is right on target ... [read article from 'What's been on']

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 13 (December 2010).