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Impacts of large scale drought deaths in Western Australia’s northern jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) forest

Hardy, G., Matusick, G. and Ruthrof, K. (2012) Impacts of large scale drought deaths in Western Australia’s northern jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) forest. In: Ecological Society of Australia, Annual Conference, 3 - 7 December, Melbourne, Australia.


Background/question/methods: Devastating forest damage resulting from extreme drought and heat is increasingly reported from around the world. In late 2010 and early 2011, due to abnormally dry conditions (less that 50% rainfall) and mean maximum temperatures of 1 to 1.5°C above average, large areas of canopy collapsed in the northern jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) forest in the south-west of Western Australia (SWWA). Monitoring plots within and outside the damaged sites were established to determine (a) where the damage occurred, (b) what species were affected and to what severity, and (c) to examine relationships between damage and topography, soil type, stocking, stand structure, and the presence of the introduced soil-borne plant pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi. In addition, how the plots changed over time was followed with regards to tree response, secondary pests and fuels.

Results/conclusions: Approximately, 16,800 ha of forest was shown to have collapsed. Approximately 50% of the collapse sites were associated with shallow soils. Marri (Corymbia calophylla), jarrah, Banksia grandis and Allocasurina fraseriana were shown to be sensitive to drought. Many trees died, whilst others developed epicormic or coppice shoots. Large numbers of Phorocantha semipunctata were observed to attack stressed trees and contribute to tree deaths. It is likely major structural changes are likely to occur in the jarrah forest with the predicted drying and warming climate in this region. Detailed findings and the implications of this forest collapse will be discussed.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: Centre of Excellence for Climate Change and Forest and Woodland Health
School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
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