1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/09/2010   
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Forests act as carbon sinks by absorbing greenhouse gases. They are also used for many other purposes including recreation, biodiversity conservation, timber harvesting, water catchment protection and honey production. All of these uses have impacts on the natural landscape, but the harmful impacts of the extraction of timber has attracted the most attention. Conversely, the forestry industry and associated wood and paper manufacturing are a source of income and work across Australia.

In 2008, there were an estimated 149 million hectares of forest in Australia, covering 19% of the continent (BRS 2010b). Most of Australia's forest area is deemed native forest (147 million hectares in 2008). Between 2003 and 2008, there was a reduction in native forest area of just over 15 million hectares (or 9%), with eucalypt forest reducing by 10.6 million hectares (8%). This reduction is a reflection of Australia's improved ability to estimate its forest content with high resolution, remotely sensed data and improved forest typing methods. These changes largely explain the difference in area of native forest over this time, and little of the difference is due to real forest loss (BRS 2008).

Australia's native forest areas are dominated by eucalypt (79% in 2008), followed by acacia (7%) and melaleuca (5%).

Old growth forests are ecologically mature forests where effects of past disturbances are now negligible. The total area of old growth forest in Australia is largely unknown. In Regional Forest Agreements, areas where assessments of old forest growth were undertaken indicate that more than 5.0 million hectares of the 23.0 million hectares of native forest (or 22%) are classified as old growth forest. About 73% of these old growth forests are in nature conservation reserves, with some of the remainder available for timber production (BRS 2010b).

Native forest area
Native forest area map of Australia, by forest type

Source: Bureau of Rural Sciences, Australian Forest Profiles 2008.


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