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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2003  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2003   
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Contents >> Forestry and Fishing >> Forest estate

Native forest

A forest is defined by Australia’s National Forest Inventory 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 as at 30 June 2001 is estimated at 164.4 million hectares (ha), which is about 21% of Australia’s land area (table 17.1). Of this area, 124.4 million ha (76%) were on public land and 37.3 million ha (23%) were on private land (Bureau of Rural Sciences 2001a). Of the publicly owned forests, 11.9 million ha (9%) were managed by state forest authorities for multiple uses including wood production, recreation and informal reserves, 17.7 million ha (14%) were on other Crown land, 74.5 million ha (60%) were on leasehold tenure and 20.5 million ha (16%) were in Nature Conservation Reserves (for further information on forests in Nature Conservation Reserves, see the article Forest conservation). Taking forested leasehold land together with private freehold forest, some 111.8 million ha, or 68% of Australia’s forests, were under private management. (Differences between these figures and previously published estimates of forested areas are largely due to recent improvements in forest mapping, which have generated more accurate figures. This is particularly the case in South Australia.)


17.1 NATIVE FOREST AREAS - 30 June 2001

NSW(a)
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
3,946
2,396
1,073
1
171
1,116
-
29
8,732
Medium
18,288
3,483
28,790
625
20,815
1,266
22,117
84
95,468
Low
186
435
1,789
1,206
3,431
62
6,724
8
13,841
Mallee
3,102
1,045
127
6,110
4,973
-
-
-
15,357
Total
25,523
7,358
31,778
7,942
29,390
2,444
28,841
121
133,397
Acacia
12
63
7,127
1,826
3,986
73
3,513
(b)-
16,600
Melaleuca
44
90
2,094
1
155
1
1,708
-
4,092
Rainforest
467
16
2,926
-
7
598
318
-
4,332
Casuarina
67
4
140
728
40
1
-
(b)-
980
Mangrove
3
3
154
20
173
-
445
-
798
Callitris
261
50
387
248
-
1
-
-
946
Other
363
132
1,622
23
1,048
19
55
(b)-
3,262
Total(a)
26,742
7,716
46,227
10,789
34,799
3,137
34,879
121
164,411

TENURE

Public
Multiple use forest(c)
1,797
3,308
3,884
5
1,612
1,212
-
2
11,820
Nature Conservation Reserve(d)
4,899
3,006
3,225
3,933
4,364
926
46
108
20,507
Other Crown land(e)
1,801
175
1,682
373
13,206
98
332
-
17,667
Leasehold(f)
9,144
43
28,199
5,227
14,025
-
17,804
11
74,453
Total
17,640
6,532
36,991
9,538
33,207
2,237
18,182
121
124,448
Private
6,985
1,183
9,182
852
1,502
900
16,694
-
37,298
Unresolved tenure
2,117
1
54
399
90
(b) -
3
-
2,664
Total(a)
26,742
7,716
46,227
10,789
34,799
3,137
34,879
121
164,411

(a) NSW figures by forest type yet to be finalised, but total area for NSW is correct.
(b) Area less than 1,000 ha.
(c) Publicly owned land managed for multiple use including wood production.
(d) Public land on which wood production is excluded (National Parks, etc.).
(e) Reserved areas of educational, scientific and other public institutional land, including easements, defence land, and other minor tenure classifications.
(f) Crown land where the right to harvest or clear land must be approved by state/territory governments. Often known as pastoral leases.

Source: Bureau of Rural Sciences, 'National Forest Inventory 2001'.


Plantations

The combined resource of standing planted forests in Australia was 1.6 million ha planted to December 2001 (table 17.2). Of this total, industrial plantations comprised approximately 1.5 million ha, with the remainder covered by a range of joint ownership arrangements. Softwood plantations, which are dominated by the exotic species Pinus radiata, represented 62% (980,000 ha). Hardwood plantations, which are almost all native eucalyptus species, mainly the Eucalyptus globulus variety, represented 37% (588,000 ha). The proportion of the estate accounted for by hardwood plantations is continuing to increase, up from 15% in 1994 and 29% in 1999.

A diverse range of ownership arrangements exists in the Australian plantation industry, including a variety of joint venture and annuity schemes between public and private parties. Of the standing plantation estate as at December 2001, 44% was on public land and 56% was on private land. While the area of plantations in public ownership has lessened over time, the proportion in private ownership has increased. Just over half of the resource planted since 1990 involved private ownership of land and trees, while only a quarter of the resource planted during this period involved public ownership.


17.2 PLANTATION AREAS - December 2001

NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Aust.
Species type
’000 ha
’000 ha
’000 ha
’000 ha
’000 ha
’000 ha
’000 ha
’000 ha
’000 ha

Hardwood
54
129
20
28
235
120
2
-
588
Softwood
270
216
181
115
103
75
5
15
980
Unknown
1
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
1
Total
324
345
201
143
337
195
8
15
1,568

Source: Bureau of Rural Sciences, 'National Plantation Inventory 2002'.


Farm forestry

Farm forestry generally refers to the incorporation of commercial tree growing into farming systems. This may take the form of smaller scale plantations on farms, timber belts, wind breaks, alleys and wide-spaced plantings, and may also include management of native forest for commercial returns on farms.

Farm forestry is increasingly becoming adopted as part of farm management planning and integrated into existing land uses, not only to supply wood but also to provide a range of benefits such as environmental protection and increased agricultural production.

To date, plantation farm forestry has mostly occurred in higher rainfall regions (greater than 600 mm) where good growth rates can be achieved and there is an existing timber processing industry. Many farmers have also entered into farm forestry by leasing their land or forming joint venture agreements with large-scale forest management companies. Fostering farm forestry uptake, and revegetation in general, in lower rainfall regions, will become an increasing priority in government programs designed to improve land management and ameliorate environmental degradation, especially salinity and water quality.

The baseline area for plantations owned outright by individuals having total estates less than 1,000 ha (i.e. the small-grower sector) was just on 67,000 ha in 2000, or nearly 5% of Australia’s total plantation estate (Bureau of Rural Sciences 2001b). In contrast to the wider plantation estate, which mainly comprised softwoods, the farm forest resource comprised over 60% hardwoods.

The management of private native forests is recognised as an important component of farm forestry, as 23% of Australia’s total native forest area is in private ownership and a further 45% is on privately managed leasehold land.

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