1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012
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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.
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Australia is a biologically diverse country and the forests of south-western Australia are one of the world's 34 recognised biodiversity ‘hotspots’. Forests protect soil and water resources, and are increasingly being recognised for their potential as carbon sinks through their ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. They are also the foundation for a broad range of cultural and spiritual experiences for diverse groups of people and a major tourist attraction for Australian and overseas visitors, providing for a vast array of recreational and educational activities.
Australia's native and plantation forests provide the majority of the timber and a significant proportion of the paper products used by Australians. Employment and wealth flow directly from manufacturing wood products, such as sawn timber, fibreboard, plywood and paper, derived from the forests. Forests and plantations also support a variety of other products and services, such as honey, wildflowers, natural oils, firewood and craft wood.
The National Forest Policy Statement, agreed by Australian state and territory governments in 1992, sets out a vision for management of Australia’s forests that integrates environmental, commercial and community values and uses. These values are embodied in regional forest agreements negotiated for New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania.
As a member of the international forest initiative – the Montreal Process – Australia has contributed to the development of the criteria and indicators for the conservation and sustainable management of temperate and boreal forests. Australia has adopted the internationally agreed criteria, and revised the indicator set to reflect its own unique forests, providing a consistent framework for monitoring and reporting on the status of its forests. Information is reported covering themes relating to biological diversity, productive capacity, forest health, soil and water values, and carbon as well as data on socio-economic, legal and institutional frameworks. The information is compiled every five years by the National Forest Inventory (NFI), within the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), to produce Australia’s State of the Forests Report. Preparation of the fourth report in the series, due for release in 2013, is underway.
Australia's forestry and forest products industries are important components of Australia's primary and secondary industry sectors. They contribute to economic development and employment in many regions of rural Australia. The industries include native forest and plantation management, log harvesting and transport, hardwood and softwood sawmilling, plywood and panels manufacturing, woodchip production and export and the pulp and paper industries.
Hardwood and softwood sawmilling uses mills of diverse sizes and types that process wood into sawn timber and other products such as mouldings and flooring. The hardwood mills are generally small scale and scattered. The softwood mills are generally larger and more integrated with other wood-processing facilities.
A forest is defined by the National Forestry 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 reported in the latest Australia's State of the Forests Report is estimated at 147.4 million hectares, which is about 19% of Australia’s land area (table 17.6).
An estimated 107.8 million hectares (73%) of native forest area is on public land and 38.1 million hectares (26%) is on private land. Forests growing on public land consist of 65.1 million hectares (60%) on leasehold tenure, 22.4 million hectares (21%) in nature conservation reserves, 10.9 million hectares (10%) on other Crown land, and 9.4 million hectares (9%) managed by state forest authorities for multiple uses including wood production, recreation and informal reserves. Including forested leasehold land and private freehold forest, about 103.2 million hectares, or 70% of Australia’s native forests, are privately managed.
Most of Australia’s forests are dominated by eucalypts, which include trees in the genera Eucalyptus, Corymbia and Angophora (table 17.6). The second most extensive forest type is Acacia. Despite the predominance of these genera, Australia’s forests are very diverse, with more than 700 species of eucalypts, almost 1,000 Acacia species, and many other genera of forest trees. As a result, forests vary widely in their species composition, structure and in the fauna they support.
(a) Publicly-owned land managed for multiple use including wood production.
(b) Public land on which wood production is excluded (e.g. national parks).
(c) Reserved areas of educational, scientific and other public institutional land, including easements, Defence land, and other minor tenure classifications.
(d) Crown land leased for private use where the right to harvest or clear land must be approved by state/territory governments. Often known as pastoral leases.
(e) Land held under freehold title and private ownership including land held by designated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities under freehold title with special conditions attached.
Source: Australia's State of the Forests Report 2008, National Forest Inventory, Bureau of Rural Sciences.
After having expanded for many years, the area of Australia’s plantation estate appeared to stabilise in 2010 at 2.0 million hectares (table 17.7). The area of coniferous (softwood) plantations increased by 16% between 1994 and 2010, while the area of broadleaved (hardwood) plantations increased six-fold over the same period (graph 17.8). The area of plantations in each state and territory in 2010 is shown in table 17.7.
The plantation estate is dominated by a few species: about three-quarters of softwood plantations by area are radiata pine (Pinus radiata). Over half of the hardwood plantations by area are Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) and a further one-quarter are shining gum (Eucalyptus nitens). These proportions are similar to those in previous years.
Nearly all softwood plantations in Australia are managed primarily to produce sawlogs to make sawn timber for building and construction (table 17.10). Pulpwood, produced from thinnings and low quality parts of the stems in stands managed primarily to produce sawlogs, is used to make particleboard, medium density fibreboard and paper products. Most hardwood plantations are managed to produce pulpwood for paper manufacturing. A small proportion are managed to produce sawlogs, although most are too young to produce significant volumes.
For the first hundred years of plantation development in Australia, most of the investment was by governments. The proportion of plantations privately owned has been increasing steadily for many years but increased substantially in 2010 because government-owned plantations in Queensland were sold to superannuation funds (graph 17.9). The proportion of plantations owned by managed investment scheme investors decreased substantially in 2010 as many were taken over by timber companies and other private investors and some have been written-off following drought and recurring disease problems.
(a) Includes mixed hardwood and softwood species and plantations for which species was not reported.
Source: National Plantation Inventory, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.
WOOD AND PAPER PRODUCTS
On average, each year, every Australian consumes the equivalent of about 1 cubic metre of harvested log in the form of timber products, including timber for home building, joinery, furniture and paper products. Those products are supplied from domestic production and imports.
Apart from sawnwood, other timber products include plywood, wood-based panels and reconstituted wood panels. Australian-made wood-based panels include particleboard, medium-density fibreboard and hardboard. These are made from softwood or hardwood pulplogs, sawmill residues and thinnings.
A total of 25.1 million cubic metres of logs was harvested from Australian native forests and plantations in 2009–10; that volume was 1% less than the previous year but 3% more than ten years earlier. The volume harvested from native forests has almost halved (43% or 4.8 million cubic metres) over ten years, while the volume harvested from plantations has increased five-fold (3.5 million cubic metres).
The total value of exports of forest products in 2009–10 was $2.3 billion. Woodchips comprised 38% of that total and paper and paperboard products (primarily packaging and industrial paper) comprised 29%. The value of imports of forest products in 2009–10 was $4.2 billion, of which 52% were paper and paperboard products (primarily printing and writing paper). This indicates a trade deficit in forest products of $1.9 billion in 2009–10, down from the previous year's level of $2.1 billion.
Pulp and paper mills use roundwood thinnings, low-quality logs, harvesting residues and sawmill waste, recycled paper and paperboard to produce a broad range of pulp and paper products. Over the past five years, the volume of pulpwood for paper and paperboard harvested from eucalypt plantations has increased by a third while the volume harvested from native forests has declined by 20%.
Woodchips are used to produce paper and paper products. The woodchip export industry uses sawmill residues and native forest logs that are unsuitable for sawmilling. Sawmill waste material, which would otherwise be burnt, is also chipped for local pulpwood-using industries. Woodchips are also produced from thinnings from softwood plantations and from hardwood plantations grown especially for the purpose.
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) reported that about 7.7 million cubic metres of logs were used for woodchip production for export in 2009–10, a decrease of 18% from five years ago. This was mainly due to a fall over the period of 2.5 million cubic metres (45%) in production from native hardwood forests not being matched by the increase of only 1.5 million cubic metres from hardwood plantations. Production of woodchips for export from coniferous logs has declined from 1.3 million cubic metres to 0.6 million cubic metres over the last five years.
Source: Australian Forest and Wood Products Statistics, September and December quarters 2010, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.