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Forests and woodland decline in south-western Australia

Hardy, G., Matusick, G. and Ruthrof, K. (2011) Forests and woodland decline in south-western Australia. In: Biodiversity and Forests Symposium, 7 October, Margaret River, Western Australia.


Since the late 1990’s many of our iconic tree species including tuart, wandoo, flooded gum, marri and more recently WA peppermint and jarrah have experienced a significant decline in health and vigour. These declines have been linked to numerous direct and indirect causes which include climate change, clearing and fragmentation, changed fire regimes, nutrient inputs, pollution, loss of native fauna, pests and pathogens amongst others. The past twenty years has seen a significant decline in rainfall throughout the south-west of Western Australia and predictions are that by 2070 rainfall will decrease by between 2 and 60% and temperatures will increase by up to 6oC. These predictions represent profound and rapid changes and present real challenges for our native species to adapt; many may not have the time to do so. The dry summer of 2010/2011 has provided some indication of how a drying climate might impact on our forests and woodlands with significant drought deaths observed in the jarrah forest, banksia and tuart woodlands. How these changes will impact on associated flora, fauna, fungi and ecological processes such as fire need to be considered. In some areas such as those on shallow soils, ecosystem tipping points might have been reached. We need to start discussing as a community how we might want to manage our native forests and woodlands in a drying climate if we wish to at all. It is critical that public awareness is raised about how these changes might impact on our unique and ancient ecosystems. This talk will discuss some of the potential causes of tree declines and their interactions, together with possible implications to fauna and flora. Suggestions will be made to the possible management tools available to help raise awareness and debate for what we as a society would like to do to conserve our unique woodlands and forests for future generations.

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