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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2009–10  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/06/2010   
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FORESTRY

Australia's native and plantation forests are an important natural resource providing a wide range of products and valuable services to the community.

Australia is one of the most biologically diverse countries and the forests of south-western Australia are one of the world's 34 recognised biodiversity ‘hotspots’. Forests protect soil and water resources, and are increasingly being recognised for their potential as carbon sinks through their ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. They are also the foundation for a broad range of cultural and spiritual experiences for diverse groups of people and a major tourist attraction for Australian and overseas visitors, providing for a vast array of recreational and educational activities.

Australia's native and plantation forests provide the majority of the timber and a significant proportion of the paper products used by Australians. Employment and wealth flow directly from manufacturing the wood products, such as sawn timber, fibreboard, plywood and paper, derived from the forests. These forests and plantations also support a variety of other products and services, such as honey, wildflowers, natural oils, firewood and craft wood.

The National Forest Policy Statement, agreed by Australian state and territory governments in 1992, sets out a vision for management of Australia’s forests that integrates environmental, commercial and community values and uses. These values are embodied in regional forest agreements negotiated for New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania.

As a member of the international forest initiative - the Montreal Process - Australia has contributed to the development of the criteria and indicators for the conservation and sustainable management of temperate and boreal forests. Australia has adopted the internationally agreed criteria, and revised the indicator set to reflect its own unique forests, providing a consistent framework for monitoring and reporting on the status of its forests. Information is collected covering the themes of biological diversity, productive capacity, forest health, soil and water values, carbon, socioeconomic, and legal and institutional frameworks. The information is compiled every five years by the National Forest Inventory (NFI), within the Bureau of Rural Sciences, to produce Australia’s State of the Forests Report.

Australia's forestry and forest products industries are important components of Australia's primary and secondary industry sectors. They are particularly important in providing economic development and employment in many regions of rural Australia. The industries include native forest and plantation management, log harvesting and transport, hardwood and softwood sawmilling, plywood and panels manufacturing, woodchip production and export and the pulp and paper industries. Estimates of employment in the forestry and forest products industries range from 77,000 people to 120,000 people, depending on the employment categories included.

The hardwood and softwood sawmilling industries comprise mills of diverse sizes and types that process wood into sawn timber and other products such as mouldings and flooring. The hardwood mills are generally small scale and scattered. The softwood mills are generally larger and more integrated with other wood-processing facilities.


Forest estate

Native forest

A forest is defined by the NFI as an area incorporating all living and non-living components, dominated by trees having usually a single stem and a mature or potentially mature stand height exceeding two metres, and with an existing or potential crown cover of over-storey strata about equal to or greater than 20%. This definition includes Australia’s diverse native forests, regardless of age. It is also sufficiently broad to encompass areas of trees that are sometimes described as woodlands.

Based on this definition, the total area of native forest reported in the latest Australia's State of the Forests Report is estimated at 147.4 million hectares (mill. ha), which is about 19% of Australia’s land area (table 17.1).

Some 107.8 mill. ha (73%) of native forest are on public land and 38.1 mill. ha (26%) are on private land, with the remaining 1% on land of unresolved tenure. The 107.8 mill. ha of forests growing on public land consists of 65.1 mill. ha (60%) on leasehold tenure, 22.4 mill. ha (21%) in nature conservation reserves, 10.9 mill. ha (10%) on other Crown land, and 9.4 mill. ha (9%) managed by state forest authorities for multiple uses including wood production, recreation and informal reserves. Including forested leasehold land and private freehold forest, some 103.2 mill. ha, or 70% of Australia’s native forests, are privately managed.

Most of Australia’s forests are dominated by eucalypts, which include trees in the genera Eucalyptus, Corymbia and Angophora (table 17.1). The second most extensive forest type is acacia. Despite the predominance of these forest types, Australia’s forests are very diverse. There are more than 700 species of eucalypts and almost 1000 Acacia species, as well as many other genera of trees in forests that vary widely in their species composition and structure and in the fauna they support.

17.1 NATIVE FOREST AREAS - 2008

NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Aust.
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha

DOMINANT CANOPY SPECIES

Eucalypt
Tall
3 421
1 562
177
-
213
1 101
-
28
6 501
Medium
17 228
4 110
33 825
356
9 508
1 264
18 213
81
84 586
Low
289
105
2 404
1 179
3 888
65
8 176
7
16 115
Mallee
210
1 504
60
6 256
1 217
-
-
-
9 247
Total
21 148
7 281
36 466
7 791
14 826
2 430
26 389
116
116 447
Acacia
1 333
41
6 060
239
1 123
72
1 496
-
10 365
Melaleuca
48
24
5 698
14
62
19
1 690
-
7 556
Rainforest
495
18
1 867
-
5
593
302
-
3 280
Casuarina
1 168
131
61
671
82
1
114
-
2 229
Mangrove
5
2
436
14
164
-
359
-
980
Callitris
1 540
25
597
118
1
1
315
-
2 597
Other
473
314
1 397
7
1 400
-
344
7
3 942
Total
26 208
7 837
52 581
8 855
17 665
3 116
31 010
123
147 397

TENURE

Public
Multiple use forest(a)
1 980
3 163
1 991
-
1 248
1 026
-
-
9 408
Nature Conservation Reserve(b)
5 148
3 505
4 576
4 029
3 868
1 121
16
108
22 371
Other Crown land(c)
943
109
1 598
277
7 169
85
674
7
10 862
Leasehold(d)
9 891
35
34 304
3 083
3 891
-
13 920
8
65 132
Total
17 962
6 812
42 469
7 389
16 176
2 232
14 610
123
107 773
Private(e)
8 076
1 025
8 908
1 399
1 489
885
16 317
-
38 099
Unresolved tenure
170
-
1 204
67
-
-
83
-
1 524
Total
26 208
7 837
52 581
8 855
17 665
3 116
31 010
123
147 397

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
(a) Publicly-owned land managed for multiple use including wood production.
(b) Public land on which wood production is excluded (National Parks, etc).
(c) Reserved areas of educational, scientific and other public institutional land, including easements, Defence land, and other minor tenure classifications.
(d) Crown land leased for private use where the right to harvest or clear land must be approved by state/territory governments. Often known as pastoral leases.
(e) Land held under freehold title and private ownership including land held by designated indigenous communities under freehold title with special conditions attached.
Source: Australia's State of the Forests Report 2008, National Forest Inventory, Bureau of Rural Sciences.


Plantations

Australia’s plantation estate continued to expand in 2008. The total recorded area of plantation established reached 2.0 mill. ha in 2008 (table 17.2). This was an increase of 70,000 ha (3.7%) over 2007 and of nearly 20% over the past five years. The proportion of hardwood species has increased to 48% of the total with softwood species making up just over half (51%) of the total area (graph 17.3). About 95% of the softwood plantations are Pinus radiata and other introduced pines. Nearly all of the hardwood plantations are native eucalypts, including Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus), shining gum (E. nitens) and flooded gum (E. grandis).

For the first hundred years of plantation development in Australia most of the investment was by governments. There are now diverse ownership arrangements, including a variety of joint venture schemes between public and private parties. For the past several years, most investment in new plantations has been by the private sector through managed investment schemes which funded about 81% of all new plantations established in the past five years and now own about 34% of the total plantation area (graph 17.4). The proportions of public and private plantations were equal at 46% in 1999. Privately-owned plantations now represent 62%, far exceeding public plantations at 33%. The other 5% are jointly owned.

17.2 PLANTATION AREAS - 2008

NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Total
Species type
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha
'000 ha

Hardwood
82
201
59
58
305
217
27
-
950
Softwood
286
220
189
123
109
77
2
8
1 014
Other (mixed or unknown)
3
1
2
-
2
-
-
-
9
Total
370
422
251
182
416
294
30
8
1 973

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
Source: Australia's Plantations 2009 Inventory update, National Forest Inventory, Bureau of Rural Sciences.

17.3 PLANTATION AREA(a), By species group
Graph: 17.3 PLANTATION AREA(a), By species group


17.4 Plantation Ownership - 2006 to 2008
Graph: 17.4 Plantation Ownership - 2006 to 2008

Biodiversity in plantations

Until the 1980s, most plantations were pines planted on land where there was previously native forest. Since the 1980s, nearly all plantation expansion has been of eucalypts and the vast majority has been established on land cleared long before for agriculture. Biodiversity could be compared with the original native vegetation or with the former agricultural land use.

A growing number of studies indicates that biodiversity is highest in undisturbed native vegetation, next highest on plantation margins adjacent to native forest, and less in the interior of the plantation. Overall, plantations have a greater biodiversity than open agricultural and grazing land. The trend is the same for pine plantations but the level of biodiversity in the interior of the pines is normally less than in the interior of eucalypt plantations. Results of surveys comparing bird species found in native forest, eucalypt plantations and pasture in Victoria are shown in graph 17.5. Eucalypt plantations were examined at 105 sites in north-east and central-west Victoria, along with nearby sites in farmland and remnant forest. The study showed that plantations support higher densities of forest birds than cleared farmland, and slightly lower densities that native forest.

17.5 Bird species in forests, plantations and pastures
Graph: 17.5 Bird species in forests, plantations and pastures


Farm forestry

Farm forestry refers to the incorporation of commercial tree growing into farming systems. This may take the form of small plantations, timber belts, wind breaks, alleys and wide-spaced trees, and may also include management of native forest for commercial returns and other benefits. Farm forestry has been adopted by relatively few Australian farmers, although a large proportion of them plant trees for land protection and amenity purposes.

Managing private native forests is a potentially important component of farm forestry because 26% of Australia’s total native forest area is on privately-owned land and a further 44% is on leasehold land. However, there is little information available about how those forests are managed.


Wood and paper products

On average, each Australian consumes about 1 cubic metre of timber products each year, including timber for home building, joinery, furniture and paper products. Those products are supplied from domestic production and from imports.

A total of 28.5 million cubic metres of logs were harvested from Australian native forests and plantations in 2007-08; that volume was 5% more than the previous year and a 35% increase over ten years. The volume harvested from native forests declined by a little over 10% over ten years while the volume harvested from plantations increased by about 75%.

The total value of exports of forest products in 2007-08 was $2.5 billion. Woodchips comprised 43% of that total and paper and paperboard products (primarily packaging and industrial paper) comprised 26%. The value of imports of forest products in 2007-08 was $4.4 billion, of which 51% were paper and paperboard products (primarily printing and writing paper) and 11% sawnwood. This indicates a trade deficit in forest products of $1.9 billion in 2007-08, similar to that in previous years.

Australia produced 5.4 million cubic metres of sawn timber in 2007-08 (table 17.6). That volume was comprised of 1.1 million cubic metres of hardwood timber, nearly all derived from logs harvested from native forests, and 4.3 million cubic metres of softwood timber, nearly all derived from logs harvested from plantations. Exports of sawnwood totalled 338 000 cubic metres and imports totalled 784,000 cubic metres. Allowing for domestic production, exports and imports, total Australian consumption of sawnwood in 2007-08 was about 5.8 million cubic metres.

Other timber products include plywood, wood-based panels and reconstituted wood panels. Australian-made wood-based panels include particleboard, medium-density fibreboard and hardboard. These are made from softwood or hardwood pulplogs, sawmill residues and thinnings.

Pulp and paper mills use roundwood thinnings, low-quality logs, harvesting residues and sawmill waste, recycled paper and paperboard to produce a broad range of pulp and paper products. Over the past five years there has been an almost three fold increase in the volume of wood for paper and paperboard harvested from eucalypt plantations as they have come into production while the volume harvested from native forests has declined by about 13%.

Woodchips are used to produce paper and paper products. The woodchip export industry uses sawmill residues and native forest logs that are unsuitable for sawmilling. Before the advent of the woodchip export industry, much of this material was left in the forest after logging. Sawmill waste material, which would otherwise be burnt, is also chipped for local pulpwood-using industries. Woodchips are also produced from thinnings from softwood plantations and from hardwood plantations grown especially for the purpose.

A total of about 10.8 million cubic metres of logs were used for woodchip production for export in 2007-08, an increase of over 30% in the previous five years. The proportion from hardwood plantations increased from 14% to 38% of the total in that period while the proportion from native forests decreased from 72% to 48%.

17.6 PRODUCTION OF WOOD AND SELECTED WOOD PRODUCTS

Commodity
2003-04
2004-05
2005-06
2006-07
2007-08

Sawn Australian-grown timber
Coniferous ’000 m3
3 415
3 456
3 821
4 012
4 263
Broadleaved ’000 m3
1 253
1 231
1 211
1 152
1 109
Total ’000 m3
4 668
4 687
5 032
5 163
5 371
Plywood ’000 m3
146
156
145
130
134
Particle board ’000 m3
1 048
944
1 002
933
957
Medium-density fibreboard ’000 m3
795
794
798
680
710
Paper and paperboard
Newsprint ’000 t
422
443
415
411
456
Printing and writing ’000 t
585
659
663
693
706
Household and sanitary ’000 t
200
197
203
190
186
Packaging and industrial ’000 t
1 956
1 945
1 926
1 907
1 933

Source: Australian Forest and Wood Products Statistics September and December quarters 2008, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics.







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