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Biodiversity project newsletter: BioBuzz


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Issue fifteen - December 2011
BioBuzz - Biodiversity news­

Hot spot

­Plantation impacts on biodiversity

­ A large proportion of Australia’s million hectares of industrial eucalypt plantations have been established on what was previously agricultural land, and significant amounts of remnant native vegetation is now embedded within plantation estates. Such rapid landscape change across Southern Australia has generated significant industry, community and scientific interest in how biodiversity values are affected by forestry operations in these plantation landscapes. Dr Peter Grimbacher has produced a CRC report that examines the broad impacts on biodiversity of plantations across southern Australia, incorporating information on the full life-cycle and variety of plantation operations, the land-use history and landscape context; he has also tested the various perceptions held by the general public concerning biodiversity and eucalypt plantations. You can download the public CRC report here.

Biodiversity project update

Project leader Brad Potts provides us with a managerial overview of the progress, achievements, collaborative projects and outputs of the CRC biodiversity project for 2010–2011. [read more]

What's on?

CRC Annual Science Meeting

The final CRC Forestry Annual Science Meeting will be held at The Mantra Hotel, Mooloolaba, Queensland, Monday 5th – Thursday 8th March 2012.  In addition to being a valuable networking opportunity for staff and students alike, the ASM puts everyone’s research efforts into perspective by providing a broad overview of the research that has been taking place across the CRC. On the Monday of the ASM, Merv Shepherd (SCU; subproject 4.2.6) is hoping to hold a workshop on the risk of gene flow out of plantations into native forests. Watch your email “inbox” and the CRC members’ website for more information.

Australasian Bat Society Conference

Bat enthusiasts should keep 10-13 April 2012 available for the Australasian Bat Society Conference. Registration for the conference, which is to be held at the University of Melbourne, is now open.  Papers on any topic of bat biology and conservation are invited.  For more information and registration forms, visit the ABS conference website.

Farewell to Steve Read

Steve Read thumbnailIn October, the CRC for Forestry bid farewell to Dr Steve Read who chaired the Program Coordinating Committee for CRC Program Four 'Trees in the landscape' and was Chief Scientist at Forestry Tasmania for the past seven years. We would like to thank Steve for his thoughtful, provocative and insightful contributions to all the RP4 projects. [read more]

Thanks and goodbye to CRC stalwart, Vin Patel­

Vin Patel ThumbnailAs the CRC for Forestry winds up, it is with much sadness that we farewell Vin Patel who, having worked with three consecutive forestry CRCs, has developed a huge skill set and knowledge base for field-based insect research. [read more]


What's been on?

Ecology in changing landscapes: Ecological Society of Australia 2011

ESA Logo thumbEcologists from far and wide descended upon the city of Hobart in November to discuss “Ecology in Changing Landscapes” at the Annual Conference of the Ecological Society of Australia (ESA).  The conference was last held in Tasmania 15 years ago, so while it was a 'home' conference for thirteen CRC delegates, the Tasmanian landscape was an added attraction for visitors from interstate and overseas. [read more]

International Botanical Congress (IBC) 2011

Plant Sci at IBC thumbThe CRC was well-represented at the International Botanical Congress 2011, held in Melbourne in July. A contingent comprising Prof Brad Potts, Assoc Prof Rene Vaillancourt, Dr Julianne O'Reilly-Wapstra, Dr Dorothy Steane, Dr Neil Davidson, Ms Christina Borzak (all from UTAS) and Dr Merv Shepherd (SCU) contributed in many ways to the botanical extravaganza. [read more]

Brazilian conference on improvement and culture of eucalypts  

brazillian-conf-thumb2Several CRCF staff attended the IUFRO conference on “Joining silvicultural and genetic strategies to minimize Eucalyptus environmental stresses: from research to practice” held in Porto Seguro, Brazil in November. [read more]


­Sharing experience in developing a eucalypt resource with New Zealand foresters

BradNZ-thumbBrad Potts recently attended a workshop in New Zealand aimed at exploring issues that need to be considered when a species is to be introduced to an area outside its native range.  The organisers of the conference had a particular interest in naturally durable eucalypts that are suited to New Zealand drylands. [read more]


­Churchill Fellow brings Australia up to speed on eucalypt genomics

Former CRC student Dr Rebecca Jones was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in mid-2010 (see related article in Biobuzz 12).  After much organisation and planning, Beck embarked on a tour of the leading eucalypt and genomics labs of Europe and north America, thus bringing herself—and, more recently, her Australian colleagues—up to speed on the latest and greatest in eucalypt genomics research and technologies. [read more]

Tasmania’s Forest Practices showcased in China

In August, two Forest Practices Authority (FPA) Biodiversity staff, Sarah Munks and Anne Chuter, showcased Tasmania’s forest practices system at the International Association of Landscape Ecology (IALE) World Congress in Beijing, China. [read more]

Invertebrates under the microscope

brazillian-conf-thumbDr Karen Richards (Forest Practices Authority, Tasmania) recently attended the 10th Invertebrate Biodiversity and Conservation Conference, held in Melbourne in conjunction with the Society of Australian Systematic Biologists, from the 4th to 7th of December 2011.  Karen Richards reports. [read more]

­Establishing a French connection

Guy-pollinating-thumbUTAS and the CRC have been hosting an international exchange visitor from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), Centre de Bordeaux.  Mr Guy Roussel, who works with Prof Antoine Kremer in the forest genetics research group at INRA, is a specialist in controlled pollination. [read more]


­Insect–plant interactions­

SIP logo thumbIn August 2011, Dr Julianne O’Reilly-Wapstra attended the 14th Symposium on Insect–Plant Interactions, held in Wageningen, Netherlands. Although Julianne’s forte lies with plant–mammal interactions, her expertise in community ecology is relevant to a broad audience. [read more]


­Christchurch hosts Australasian entomologists

In August 2011, entomologists from Australia, New Zealand and other further-flung countries congregated at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand for the 3rd combined conference of the Australian and New Zealand Entomological Societies.  Francisco Tovar attended and presented a progress report on his fabulous new mobile software for plantation health assessments. [read more]

Engaging society in conservation – ICCB 2011

Tracey Hollings presented a speed talk at the 25th International Congress for Conservation Biology held in Auckland, New Zealand, 5–9 December 2011.  This congress is possibly the most important international meeting for conservation professionals and students who are concerned with the science and practice of conserving biological diversity.  The theme of the 2011 congress was 'Engaging Society in Conservation'.  Tracey’s abstract can be viewed here.

Flooded with freshwater science

The 50th Congress of the Australian Society for Limnology was held in Brisbane in September 2011. It was held jointly with the New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society and the annual Riversymposium. Ryan Burrows (UTAS) and 250 other delegates from nine countries attended the hugely successful event.  Ryan was the runner-up for the 'best talk by PhD student'.  You can view Ryan’s abstract here.

Wildlife in Hawaii

WildlifeSocConf-thumbThe 18th annual conference of the Wildlife Society was held in Hawaii in November.  PhD student Tracey Hollings dragged herself away from Tasmania and across the Pacific Ocean in order to attend.  Tracey presented her research on the effect that the decline in the Tasmanian devil population is having on other animals—both predator and prey species—in Tasmanian ecosystems. [read abstract]

Odd Spot

Source of all Eucalyptus

obliqua-thumbThe first formal description of a eucalypt was by the French botanist Charles-Louis L'Héritier de Brutelle and was published in his book Sertum Anglicum, seu plantae rariores quas in hortis juxta Londinum.  A rare copy of the original book, with its magnificent engraved plates by James Sowerby and Pierre-Joseph Redoute, has been purchased by The Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts. [read more]

Serious Spot

Biosecurity risk for Tasmania

myrtle rust thumbUnfortunately myrtle rust has arrived in the eastern states of Australia and is affecting native forests.  So far, through strict quarantine measures, Tasmania remains free of the disease.  We would like to keep it that way!  The Department of Primary Industries Parks Water and Environment (DPIPWE) has produced a poster and a reference card to educate people about how to recognise myrtle rust and what to do if they find some in Tasmania.  [view poster] [view reference card]

Subproject 4.2.1 Biodiversity benefits of alternatives to clearfelling

Variable retention report

AN FWPA report on using variable retention (VR) silviculture to balance forestry with biodiversity is now available. VR was originally developed in the Pacific North West (PNW) of USA and Canada as an alternative to clearfelling and other traditional silvicultural systems, to improve biodiversity and social outcomes.  As VR has recently been implemented in wet old-growth forests in Tasmania, and there is scope for broader implementation in Tasmania and mainland Australia, insights from the PNW about operational experience, research, adaptive management, and efforts to improve relationships between the timber industry and environmental groups are of broad relevance to forest management in Australia.  Click here to read the FWPA report.

Student update

The students of subproject 4.2.1 are on the home straight with their thesis writing. But that's not all they are doing. [read more]

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

Are insect attacks on Eucalyptus plantations a worsening problem?

Over the past few decades, the plantation area of Eucalyptus globulus and E. nitens in southern Australia has increased considerably, leading to concerns that there could also be an increase in plantation damage by insect herbivores. The good news is that there is little evidence to suggest that this has occurred. Dr Peter Grimbacher (UMelb) is the chief author of a multi-region spatio-temporal review of southern Australian plantation pests.  You can download the pdf of the CRC technical report here.

Is there life for a conservation biologist after their PhD?

4.2.2-pot-thumb­­Chela Powell, who completed her PhD earlier this year, is working with Vic Forests as a conservation biologist.  Although her PhD dealt with beetle diversity in remnant forests in a plantation matrix, Chela is applying her knowledge of conservation principles and ecological theory to real life forest management. [read more]


Student update

The students have nearly finished their field work and are aiming to write papers and theses over the next 12 months. [read more]

Subproject 4.2.3  Biodiversity value of coarse woody debris

Dead Wood 2011

In May 2011, Drs Martin Moroni and Simon Grove (Forestry Tasmania) journeyed to Quebec to attend the International Symposium on Dynamics and Ecological Services of Deadwood in Forest Ecosystems.  Martin’s keynote address (read abstract) compared the dead wood carbon dymanics of forests at opposite ends of the earth: Atlantic Canada and Tasmania. Martin Moroni wrote this report.

Understanding forest carbon dynamics in Tasmania’s wet forests

Ian Riley thumbnailThe distribution of carbon in the world’s ecosystems plays an important role in the Earth’s climatic system.  Forest landscapes make a substantial contribution to these carbon stocks, but relatively little is known about carbon dynamics of Australian forests. Ian Riley recently received a Tasmanian Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) and a Forest and Wood Product Association (FWPA) top-up scholarship and project funding to undertake PhD research on carbon dynamics of Tasmania’s wet forests. [read more]

Conservation ecology of beetles in managed forests

Congratulations to Belinda Yaxley who submitted her thesis for examination at the end of November.  Belinda examined the effects of forest harvesting and succession on six exemplar beetle species.  You can read Belinda’s abstract here.

Subproject 4.2.4  Tools for monitoring and assessing biodiversity

Live! Beetle website

Beetles play key roles in forest biodiversity and as forest pests.  Recently, the Tasmanian Forest Insect Collection (TFIC)—a satellite collection of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery—went live, thanks to Forestry Tasmania.  The TFIC web-site contains a page for each beetle species, with individual photographs and automatically generated distribution maps.  It is a valuable resource for researchers, forest workers and insect enthusiasts.  [Visit the TFIC website].

Plantation health help mobilised

IPMG Plantation Health (IPH) software allows foresters to quickly and accurately record pest and disease outbreaks in the field, including: the date of the observation, the extent and severity of any damage caused, GPS co-ordinates and photos. [read more]

Ground-truthing the “Mature Habitat Availability Map”

Amy Koch has been developing a GIS mapping layer that can provide information about the availability of tree hollows in a landscape.  She is in the process of 'ground-truthing' the map and would like to hear from people who may be able to provide her with relevant data. [read more]

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

Hollows’ victories

Three publications on the use of hollows by small and medium-sized mammals in Tasmanian production forest areas have been published or are ‘in press’. The principal authors are students or former students of the CRC. [read more]

Night owls are a big part of Mick’s life


Congratulations to Mick Todd who submitted his PhD thesis recently. Mick spent several years researching various aspects of Tasmanian masked owl biology, including diet, calling behaviour, habitat and distribution. [read more]

­ ­

­New honours student investigates genetics of rare endemic eucalypt


­Peter Harrison recently started an honours project at the University of Tasmania.  His project will examine the genetic variation in the rare Tasmanian endemic silver gum, Eucalyptus cordata, extending the molecular studies of the endemic alpine white gums undertaken by previous CRC students. [read more]


Student update

Students of subproject 4.2.5 have been as busy as ever. Updates on various student projects can be viewed here.

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

Plantation escapees form subject of trans-continental research


Matt Larcombe, a PhD student at the University of Tasmania, has teamed up with a Portuguese researcher to determine the extent of wildling establishment around blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) plantations, and the environmental factors that might be important in predicting their establishment. [read more]

­Expect the unexpected in Corymbia hybrids

Hybrid-Gympie-QLD-thumbA crossing experiment involving Corymbia torelliana and hybrid combinations of C. torelliana and spotted gums has produced some surprising results.  Rather than having leaf toughness that is intermediate between the parent taxa, sometimes there is a distinct reduction in the hybrid­. [read more]


Student update

Numerous experiments, from controlled crossing experiments to source:sink ratio assessments, are keeping our students on their toes. [read more]

Subproject 4.2.7  Management of genetic resources

Stringy bark diversity study winds up

Justin-obliqua-thumbStringy bark, Eucalyptus obliqua, is one of the most important forestry species in Tasmania.  The resowing of coupes can require the use of off-site seed when seed is not available from the harvested coupe.  Justin Bloomfield has been studying the patterns of molecular genetic variation in E. obliqua to determine if there are underlying patterns of genetic diversity in native E. obliqua gene pools across Tasmania that need to be taken into account when transferring seed between seed zones. [read more]

Racial variation in Eucalyptus nitens reviewed

Fig2-thumbEucalyptus nitens (shining gum) is the most widely planted temperate hardwood species in Australia and the main species currently planted in Tasmania.  E. nitens can be divided into races on the basis of geography and quantitative genetic differences.  A meta-analysis of the performance of these E. nitens races and the closely related E. denticulata in plantations around the world was published recently. [read more]

Student update

Archana Gauli and Sara Hadjigol have been making great strides forward in their research. [read more]

Subproject 4.2.8  Integrated management of browsing mammals

Study tour takes eucalypt research to Europe­


Julianne O’Reilly-Wapstra visited the Netherlands and Scotland in August where she interacted with other like-minded community ecologists. [read more]



ARC Discovery grant will extend browsing research

Dr Julianne O’Reilly-Wapstra was recently awarded an ARC Discovery grant in association with Assoc Prof Joseph Bailey and Dr Jennifer Schweitzer (who recently returned from Tasmania to University of Tennessee, USA). The project 'From genes to ecosystems: does genetic divergence in eucalypts alter biodiversity and ecosystem function?' will use a dominant tree species of south-eastern Australia to examine how genetic based variation in its traits influences community organisation, biodiversity and ecosystem processes. Outcomes from the research will be important for responding to an uncertain future environment and maintaining the services that ecosystems provide.  The project will allow Julianne to continue her research into the interactions between mammal herbivores and eucalypts beyond the current CRC. Congratulations, Julianne!

Subproject 4.2.9  Lethal trap trees

Trap tree trial proved the concept

The final assessments of the lethal trap tree trials have shown that the attract-and-kill concept shows promise for protecting plantation trees for the leaf beetle season. [read more]

Subproject 4.2.10  Improving Mycosphaerella leaf disease resistance in Eucalyptus globulus

Good news!  Severe Mycosphaerella outbreak hits trial

Myco-thumbWell, good news for some! A Eucalyptus globulus progeny trial at Goulds Country in north-east Tasmania was affected by a severe summer/autumn outbreak of the Mycosphaerella (Teratosphaera) leaf disease in 2010/11. Data collected from the trial will provide valuable information on the impact of such outbreaks on growth and form, and our ability to select genotypes more suited to Mycosphaerella-susceptible sites. ­[read more]

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

Collaboration between CRCs leads to mobile software development

A collaboration between the CRC for Forestry and the CRC for National Plant Biosecurity has resulted in the development of a piece of software for mobile devices (e.g., iphones) that will allow forest workers to quickly and accurately record pest and disease outbreaks and send the information to a central database where it is available for further analysis. [read more]

New members IPMG website launched

With sustainable management as its core objective, the I­PMG continues to encourage best practice integrated pest management (IPM) strategies for the whole blue gum plantation industry.  One way to encourage good IPM practices is to facilitate the availability of research and information regarding pests and diseases. To this end, in addition to its public website, the IPMG recently launched a members’ website that aims to become a one-stop portal for foresters to access a variety of information and services. [read more]

Related sites

Forest Practices Authority

Applied Environmental Decision Analysis (AEDA) newsletter

Industry Pest Management Group


The editor of BioBuzz is Dr Dorothy Steane. Please contact Dot with any feedback or with your ideas for BioBuzz.