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Native Plantations

Native plantations are monocultures of species which naturally occur in the region with potentially 30% canopy cover and are planted by people.

 

MILLENNIUM ECOSYSTEM ASSESSMENT REPORTING CATEGORY

Forest Ecosystems

 

What ecosystem functions do native plantations perform?

Selecting the right tree species and applying siviculture practices is important to native plantations providing the desired ecosystem services.

Native plantations are ecosystems created by people for the purpose of timber production. They consist of native species chosen for their high woody biomass. Table 1 presents the magnitude native plantations perform different ecosystem functions (relative to other ecosystems) in SEQ.

Native Plantations have scored more highly in the regulating function category than the other categories. Native forest are the largest terrestrial gas regulator in SEQ, obsorbing high amounts of carbon dioxide (and other chemicals) from the atmosphere and releasing oxygen. Carbon obsorption is a particularly important requirement for trees in their growing stages. Tall trees influence atmospheric processes and weather patterns that regulate microclimates. 

Native plantations are excellent soil retainers as their root systems maintain soil levels at various strata through the soil profile and lower storey plant species buffer the impacts of wind and rain as they hit the soil surface. Trees obsorb nutrients through their roots and depending on the location of the ecosystem can regulate the flow of nutrients to adjacent ecosystems (e.g. rivers). Although native plantations are not as biodiverse as some other native forests (e.g. rainforests), as vegetation flowers and fruits they also provide food and habitat for many native species such as insects and pollen consumers (e.g. birds, possums). Functional food webs create natural biological control.

Native plantation are grown specifically for their raw materials (i.e. timber for multiple human uses). This provisioning function is highly sustainable in native plantations (in comparison to exotic plantations) as once the product has been harvested it can be grown again and still perform the full range of ecosystem functions. Tall trees provide shade and shelter, as well provide a barrier against airborne substances capturing particles such as dust and aerosols. Plantations undergo planned silvicultural maintenance practices. These practices promote active growth amongst the trees which improves overall forest health and has a correlating positive outcome for many ecosystem functions.

 

Table 1:The relative magnitude (to other Ecosystem Reporting Categories) native plantations perform each ecosystem function.

Ecosystem Function Category Ecosystem Function 0
1
2
3
4
5
Regulating Functions
Gas Regulation            
Climate Regulation            
Disturbance Regulation            
Water Regulation            
Soil Retention            
Nutrient Regulation            
Waste Treatment and Assimilation            
Pollination            
Biological Control            
Barrier Effect of Vegetation            
Supporting Functions
Supporting Habitats            
Soil Formation            
Provisioning Functions
Food            
Raw Materials            
Water Supply            
Genetic Resources            
Provision of Shade and Shelter            
Pharmacological Resources            
Cultural Functions
Landscape Opportunity            

 

What types of native plantations are in SEQ?

Native plantation ecosystems in SEQ predominantly support Araucaria cunninhamii, Corymbia citriodora  and Eucalyptus microcorys.

 

What is the area and extent of native plantations in SEQ?

Native plantation areas cover 303 km2, 1.21% of SEQ. This map captures state owned native plantations that consist mostly of rainforest species (e.g. hoop pine) found in the north-western parts of SEQ. Other private plantations exist but are not included in this map due to data gaps.

 

What is the vulnerability of native plantations and threats to this ecosystem in SEQ?

These ecosystems are relatively resilient to most impacts provided the correct species mix is used for the location of the plantation. They can be vulnerable to fire and frost in the first few years of growth. As these ecosystems mature they will become most vulnerable to fire but their strong resilience allows for good regeneration following this type of event. These ecosystems due to their composition and structure are fairly resistant to climate change.

The major threats to native plantations include cyclones, fire and myrtle rust. The probability of cyclones in SEQ is quite low but the risk of fire whether it be of natural or anthropogenic origin is high unless management protocols are in place. The risk of myrtle rust is still unknown but may be devastating to these ecosystems.

  

How do we manage native plantations in SEQ?

The management of native plantations is the responsibility of the landholder. There is a code of practice for the management of plantations in Queensland. However as this code was previously the responsibility of State Government under the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, the future of this code is unknown under the new Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The code does not apply to plantations less the 49 hectares. The development of a ‘landholders guide to plantation establishment and management’ complimentary to the code of practice would be highly advantageous to landholders of all sizes (particularly smaller plantations that are not a focus of the code).