Silviculture / Forest protection
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Forest protection

Australian native forest trees and other vegetation support a wide variety of animal species. Forest mammals, birds, lizards, insects and other invertebrates feed on all types of leaves, buds and flowers, wood and bark. Some of these are predators of others. Under natural conditions, the number of animals that feed and damage forest vegetation are kept low by predators and environmental conditions. So wide-scale forest damage rarely occurs.

Any animal that causes unwanted damage to trees may be considered a pest. This damage may be extensive in that it causes death or greatly reduces growth. Tolerance to damage to pests will vary depending upon the goals for planting, with greater tolerance in areas were trees are established to revegetate wildlife habitat and less for those trees that are planted with a high economic return in mind.

Plantations and farm forests, especially during the establishment phase, may be more prone to damage from local populations of plant-feeding animals. Plant-feeding mammals can decimate newly planted or young seedlings—the leaves are young, nutritious and easily accessible. Some plant-feeding insects also respond to the availability of nutritious food; their numbers increasing rapidly while feed is available. Insects can seriously affect the health of trees by quickly consuming valuable leaf tissue and buds. This can kill the seedlings or result in poor growth due to extensive leading shoot damage.

Newly planted seedlings are vulnerable to mammals and insects for approximately three years. Ground-dwelling mammals become less destructive as saplings develop sturdy trunks and leaves grow beyond reach.

Extensive damage to trees is not always detrimental to their growth rate or trunk development. If bud and leading shoot damage is limited, significant leaf damage can be sustained, especially on more mature trees. Generally, healthy trees, and trees with rapid growth rates, are better able to withstand damage from pests and diseases. Mature eucalypt trees completely defoliated in one season might suffer no long-term damage, especially if damage occurs late in the growing season.

Australian forests are also prone to diseases. It is common to see eucalypt leaves covered with blemishes, spots or dead patches. There are many causes. They include nutrient problems and environmental factors such as nutrient deficiencies, drought, waterlogging or frost. But one of the most common causes is fungal disease.

Fire is a regular part of the Australian landscape. Most of Australia’s vegetation has developed ways to withstand intense heat or to easily replenish itself after a fire. Unfortunately fire can damage wood quality, encourage irregular tree growth or lead to insect and fungal infections.

Protection of young trees
Protection from stock, vermin and wildlife
Managing insect pests
Fungal tree diseases
Fire protection

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