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BioBuzz 8 (March 2009)


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Issue eight - March 2009 e-newsletter
BioBuzz - Biodiversity news

Hot Spot - Environmental ­selection key to stringy bark diversity

­­­Justin Bloomfield­­­­­Justin Bloomfield was recently awarded his Honours for his research on the genetic diversity of stringy bark (Eu­calyptus obliqua) in Tasmania.  This species is widespread across Tasmania and Victoria, and grows in many different environments, from dry ridges to moist valleys and sodden plains.  Justin's research sho­ws that populations in these diverse environments across the whole of Tasmania are genetically very similar indeed.

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What's On

Farewell to Bob Barbour

­­­­Bob Barbour­This month we are bidding farewell to Dr Robert Barbour (University of Tasmania) who has been the driving force behind subproject 4.2.6 (Management of the risk of gene flow from eucalypt plantations) since the start of the CRC.  Bob is going to join Roaring 40s Wind Farms, based in Launceston, as an environmental officer.  Bob's smiling face and energetic enthusiasm will be sadly missed by the School of Plant Science (UTas) and the CRC.  We wish Bob and his family all the best for the future.

Gunns has new repres­entative on the PSC

The Biodiversity Project Steering Committee is having a change of faces.  We say farewell to Chris Dare and take this opportunity to thank him for his active participation on the committee and for his valuable feedback on many issues.  Ian Ravenwood will replace Chris as the Gunns Limited representative on the PSC.  Welcome Ian!

Degraded remnants in plantations … tackling the problems

How should forestry companies manage the native vegetation within their plantations that was degraded prior to plantation establishment?  A half-day workshop run by the CRC will address this issue by bringing together researchers from the Biodiversity Research Project 4.2.2, plantation industry representatives, an experienced forest certification auditor and representatives from community groups involved in restoration.

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Australasian Forest Genetics Conference

Forest Genetics Conference­­

­­­The second Australasian Forest Genetics Conference and the 18th meeting of the Australasian Forestry Research Working Group 1 (Genetics) will be held in Perth, Western Australia, 20-22 April 2009.  Brad Potts (UTAS), Chris Harwood (CSIRO) and PhD students Des Stackpole, David Blackburn and Gordon Bradbury (all from UTAS) will be attending.  Brad will present three posters and Des, David and Gordon will be giving talks.  To find out more about the conference, visit the conference website.

What's Been On

Brad Potts lauded by Royal Society

­­ brad reading

Professor Brad Potts (­University of Tasmania) was recently awarded the Royal­­ Society of NSW's Clarke Medal for distinguished work in a natural science in Australia and its territories.  This year's medal was for botany and Brad now stands among the ranks of some very famous scientists.

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Collar-rot-avatarDuring 2007 and 2008 Treena Burgess (Murdoch University) was involved, as an invited international expert, in an EU coordination action called FORTHREATS - the European network on emerging diseases and invasive species threats to European Forest Ecosystems.   FORTHREATS aimed to help prevent economic, ecological, social and cultural losses due to emerging diseases and invasive species in European Forests. 

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Major technological advances foreshadow 21st century genomics revolution

Dot Steane in SanDiego Dr Dorothy Steane (University of Tasmania) travelled to San Diego (California) in January to attend the seventeenth Plants and Animals Genomes Conference.  Despite the gorgeous weather, Dot was blown away by the storm of technology and genomics research.  Whereas the first human genome took $US 3 billion and 13 years to complete, we can now contemplate using individual human genome sequences for routine community health care (imagine the possibilities for trees!). Click here to read Dot's conference report.

CRC students shine at ESA conference

ESA_2009_avatar2A contingent of eight CRC researchers attended the 33rd Conference of the Ecological Society of Australia in December.  Two studen­ts in particular, Bryony Horton and Tanya Bailey, were recognised as outstanding in their fields.

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Eucalypts fabc logo­eature on Late Night Live

On Thursday 26th of February, late at night in small dark rooms across the planet, four eucalypt experts, including Brad Potts from the CRC for Forestry, were interviewed on ABC Radio National’s Late Night Live program.  The program investigated many aspects of Eucalyptus including history, ecology, genetics, taxonomy and the relationship between humans, eucalypts and fire. 

[Click here to download a podcast of the interview]

Developing a holistic framework to anchor the "Trees in the Landscape" Research Program

dr sadanaandan avatarThe third year review of the CRCF (November 2008, Launceston, Tasmania) prompted Dr Sadanandan Nambiar (scientific advisor for the Trees in the Landscape Program) to place the "Trees in the Landscape" program (including Biodiversity, Water and Communities) into a framework to illustrate the roles that different components of the CRC's research can play at various levels of forestry and native forest management to provide benefits to society. 

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Odd Spot

This log takes the cake

Log -cake avatarWhile most "unveilings" reveal a completed product ready for public exposure, one recent unveiling at Warra marked an incomplete ­decomposition that no longer requires close scrutiny.  The unveiling of the rotting logs marked the end of a 10 year phase in a study of saproxylic beetles.  The occasion was celebrated in style with a delicious pair of rotting log cakes, complete with decay organisms.  For the full story, click here.

Subproject 4.2.1 Biodiversity benefits of alternatives to clearfelling

Do firebreaks create barriers to eucalypt regrowth?

robyn scott avatar­

Over the summer, Robyn Scott (Forestry Tasmania) began work on a new study to determine the short- and long-term impacts of firebreak construction on eucalypt regeneration.  Firebreak construction can cause significant soil compaction that can result in decreased regeneration rates - and therefore decreased productivity - later on.

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Mechanistics affecting floristics in the Styx

liam HindrumA new UTAS honours student, Liam Hindrum, will be investigating the differences between the species composition of understorey that regenerates after logging operations compared to understorey that regenerates in areas that have not been subjected to the activities of heavy machinery.  He will examine the physical properties of disturbed soils to evaluate how these may affect the establishment of diffe­rent species.

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Stored seed plays major role ­in ARN coupe regeneration


A team of scientists from Forestry Tasmania and AgroParisTech (France) has found that in coupes with aggregated retention, the post-harvest regeneration was derived primarily from soil-stored seed, rather than from seed originating from the aggregates of unlogged forest retained within the coupes.

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Devilish ending to trapping season

Tas Devil avatar

Helen Stephens has finished her 12-week field season in aggregated retention coupes, during which she captured 300 individuals from nine species of mammal.  She and her field assistants found some good news in the final trap of the season.

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High intensity fires required for vigorous regeneration in wet eucalypt forests

A special "Old Forests New Management" issue of Forest Ecology and Management - featuring papers from the conference held in Hobart early last year - is in press.  Mark Neyland (PhD student and researcher at Forestry Tasmania) and coworkers are publishing a paper that shows that vigorous regeneration of wet Eucalyptus obliqua forest requires a very hot fire.  The challenge will be to create such conditions in areas of aggregated retention without damaging the retained forest patches. Click here to read abstract.

Mother's devotion has no limits

Diane Stephens helps Helen Stephens

Helen Stephens must be the luckiest PhD student in the CRC.  Who else has a mother who would give up her hard earned post-child-rearing rest to voluntarily accompany her daughter into forestry coupes?  Mrs Stephens - you deserve a medal!

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Student update

Click here to learn about CRC students associated with subproject 4.2.1.

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

New faces head up subproject 4.2.2

Peter thumbnail

Subproject 4.2.2 is starting 2009 with two new faces.  Dr Peter Grimbacher (UMelb) will take over from Neil Davidson as coordinator of the subproject and Professor Nigel Stork (UMelb) will contribute some of his time and expertise to the subproject. Both Peter and Nigel specialise in insect biodiversiy of tropical rainforest, but are adjusting their gazes towards more temperate biota.

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Using fire to manage biodiversity in remnants within bluegum plantations in Western Australia

Fire remnant thumbnail

Rob Archibald and his team have been trialling low intensity burning as a means to improve the condition of remnant forest within blue gum plantations near Albany, in Western Australia.  A particular aim of the trial was to weigh up the benefits of fire in promoting native regeneration against the negative impact of weed invasion.

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Using GIS for mapping biodiversity and associated ecosystem services

Himlal thumbnail

Himlal Baral (a PhD student at UMelb) is using geographic information system (GIS) technology as a tool for mapping biodiversity and associated ecosystem services in the Green Triangle.  He is currently working on a sub-catchment in the Lower Glenelg Basin, analysing the locations of threatened flora and fauna in relation to surrounding land uses such as plantations, remnant vegetation, and pastures.

[read more]

Student update

Click here to learn about CRC students associated with subproject 4.2.2.

­Subproject 4.2.3  Biodiversity value of coarse woody debris

­Decommissioning ceremony held for the Warra log decay project


Monday the 16th of February 2009 marked a historic occasion for the Warra LTER site and for the Forestry CRC: the last in a 115-long series of monthly emergence trap samples was collected from the experimentally felled logs comprising the Warra Log Decay Project.

[read more]

Trial of sampling techniques for landscape-scale study of saproxylic beetles


Later this year, Forestry Tasmania researcher, Simon Grove, and colleagues will be launching into a series of projects that aim to explore what effect – if any – landscape context has on the ability of clearfell-regenerated forest to sustain native forest biodiversity. This will help to determine where the implemenation of different forms of silviculture will deliver most benefit.

[read more]

Fuelwood harvesting prescription development

Fuelwood thumbnailSeveral years of research on coarse woody debris and its biodiversity have crystallised down to a set of provisional prescriptions, developed by Forestry Tasmania conservation biologist Simon Grove and colleagues, that could be applied in the event that integrated harvesting of fuelwood from native forests proceeds in Tasmania.  The prescriptions are currently undergoing evaluation by Forestry Tasmania (FT), but an early opportunity to test their implementation came late last year, when Gunns Ltd. was given the go-ahead by Forestry Tasmania to trial fuelwood harvesting in some State forest coupes near Triabunna.

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Decompostion rate of Eucalyptus obliqua CWD now in the public domain!

Simon Grove, Lee Stamm and Chris Barry recently received confirmation that their work on figuring out the decomposition rate of Eucalyptus obliqua coarse woody debris will be published as a paper in the forthcoming special ‘Old Forests, New Management’ edition of Forest Ecology and Management.  Watch this space.

Student update

Belinda Browning ThumbnailThere is a lot of activity among the CWD students.  Belinda Browning's early results suggest that forest age and log decay-class are both highly influential in shaping bryophyte (ie, moss and liverwort) community composition.  Meanwhile, Belinda Yaxley has found that Mount Mangana Stag Beetles may not need to eat during their adult life, because when they were young they ate enough to last them a lifetime!  And the finish line is in sight for Genevieve Gates - so she's heading to a forest research institute in South America while her supervisors read the latest draft of her thesis.

Click here to learn more about the activities of these three CRC students associated with subproject 4.2.3.

Subproject 4.2.4  Tools for monitoring and assessing biodiversity

Eucaflip branches out: Treeflip goes to press!

treeflip thumbnail­

­Buoyed by the enthusiastic reception of EucaFlip (a life-size guide to the Tasmanian eucalypts), Rob Wiltshire and Greg Jordan (UTAS) have moved on to an identification kit for the other tree species native to Tasmania.

[read more]

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

Understanding the world’s largest Barn Owl

Barn owl thumbnail

Forestry CRC and University of Tasmania Zoology student, Mick Todd, is researching the ecological requirements of the rare Tasmanian Masked Owl. The playback of pre-recorded calls of the Tasmanian Masked Owl is being used as a survey technique for the cryptic species.

[read more]

Shannon seeks quoll-ity habitat for endangered marsupial

Spotted quoll thumbnail

Shannon Troy recently began a PhD at UTAS, studying the landscape ecology of the threatened Tasmanian spotted tailed quoll.  She will be focussing on diet, physiology, resource use and movement of the species in landscapes that have been subjected to different amounts of clearfell logging.

[read more]

Microbats subject of new PhD study

summit thumbnail

Lisa Cawthen, recently crowned Biobuzz's "Miss-Adventurer of the Year", has returned from her (mis)adventures in southeast Asia, to the relative safety of a PhD at UTAS.  She is embarking on "the best project ever" and will investigate the value of forest remnants to microchiropteron bats in Tasmania.

[read more]

Student update

Click here to learn about the recent activities of the students associated with subproject 4.2.5. 

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

Terminology changes with the times

Assessing the risks and consequences of pollen-mediated gene flow from non-local introduced species (or germplasm) into wild local populations is the subject of research subproject 4.2.6.   However, as our research develops we are finding that the terminology describing this process is also evolving.

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­Buffering National Parks from genetic incursions

dave at ben lomond with bob Barbour thumb

­Understanding the risks of pollen-mediated gene flow from E. nitens plantations into eucalypt populations of high conservation value - such as rare or endangered species or those within National Parks and World Heritage Areas - is important because such gene flow may affect the integrity of these populations.

[rea­d more]

Student update

Click here to learn about CRC students associated with subproject 4.2.6.

Subproject 4.2.7 Management of genetic resources

Breeding blue gums just got easier (or did it?)

Research outcomes from studies of  blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) reproductive biology were published recently. One paper examined outcrossing rates and contamination in an E. globulus seed orchard (Rao et al. 2008) and another reviewed recent advances in reproductive biology and seed production (Potts et al. 2008).

Controlled pollination studies have shown that reproductive success (number of seeds produced per flower pollinated) was determined primarily by the female, variation in which appeared to be due to both physical and physiological properties of the flower (Suitor et al. 2009).  Recent results also argue that the level of fertilisation of a flower and the level of resource competition are major factors determining capsule abortion (Suitor et al. 2008).

Transferring genetic data to forestry management

Peter Ades (UMelb) presented the research results of several CRC projects that have implications for the sustainable management of ash species (E. regnans, E. obliqua and E. delegatensis) in production forestry landscapes.

[read more]

­Paul Nevill goes west

As many fortune-seekers make their way home from the West, Paul Neville (PhD student, UMelb) has been lured there by an irresistable job offer.  Our loss is Kings Park's gain; Paul will be working with Dr Siegy Krauss and colleagues at the University of Western Australia and Kings Park Botanic Gardens on the endemic flora of southwest Western Australia.  Paul is on the verge of submitting his PhD thesis, but moving his family of six across the continent has put him a little behind schedule.  Watch the Hot Spot in the next issue of Biobuzz to read about Paul's fascinating findings that explain the secrets of success of the king of the forests, Eucalyptus regna­ns.

What pollinates the world's tallest flowering plants?

e_regnan_thumbnailProfessor Rod Griffin and co-authors recently published a paper on the pollinators of Eucalyptus regnans, based on field work done 25 years ago. 13,859 insects that visited flowers were caught and classified to determine the major pollinator groups.  Pollen was washed from some of these insects to determine where and how many pollen grains they carried, enabling the researchers to identify the most effective pollinators.  So what are the major pollinators of these giants? How many pollen grains can an insect carry?

[read more]

Student update

With one PhD thesis submitted, one honours student finished and two more PhD students racing towards the finish line, it's all go in the research/education program of subproject 4.2.7!  Click here to learn more.

Subproject 4.2.8  Integrated management of browsing mammals

Julianne invited to speak at international conference

julianne thumbnail

The talents and expertise of subproject leader Dr Julianne O'Reilly-Wapstra (UTAS) have once again been recognised, this time with an invitation to speak at a symposium that is being organised by the pretigious ­British Ecological Society.

[read more]


Sentree + stockings = less browsing

seedlings thumbnail

A two-year project aimed at saving eucalypt seedlings from mammalian browsing (using non-lethal methods) has come up with a formula that will help tree growers who wish to reduce browsing in their plantations.

[read more]

Early browsing damage to seedlings may yield benefits later on

­ borzak_thumb

A year into her PhD, Christina Borzak has some interesting results from her browsing experiments.  She has found that one year after heavy browsing, seedlings appear to be less prone to attack from some pests than their taller, less browsed counterparts.  Click here to learn more.

Student update

The students of subproject 4.2.8 have been as busy as ever. Click here to find out what they have been up to.

Subproject 4.2.9 Lethal trap trees

Testing the efficacy of lethal trap trees

Jane Procap15 thumbnailThe lethal trap tree project has been in full swing over the summer. CRC entomologists selected four trial sites around the state with surrogate trap trees to test various methods for delivering  insecticide (imidacloprid) into the tree foliage for controlling chrysomelid leaf beetles.  Early results suggest a variation in efficacy of treatments.  Jane Elek reports.

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Subproject 4.2.10  Improving Mycosphaerella leaf disease resistance in Eucalyptus globulus

New Mycosphaerella trial established in north-eastern Tasmania

Salmon-River-thumbA new field trial to study the susceptibility of Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) to Mycosphaerella leaf disease was established at Gould's Country in north-eastern Tasmania in December 2008.  The new trial will allow a better estimate of the stability of genetic differences in susceptibility to this leaf disease.

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

IPMG workshop demystifies statistical variables

The Integrated Pest Management Group was set up as a conduit for technology transfer.  They regularly hold workshops to educate members about important aspects of pest management.  The most recent of these workshops examined relationships between variables (eg, tree growth, nutrients, etc.) involved in the management of pest species.

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