2011: International Year of the Forest

By Kylie Piper, AG Society administrator 8 November 2013
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This year, the UN is asking us to think about and visit our forests, home to so many of the world’ species.

WITH JUST FOUR PER CENT of the world’s forests in Australia, most people would not recognise forest conservation as a daily issue in our wide brown land. But, Australia has a variety of forest types – seven main groups – that cover much of the coastal regions of the country.

In order of abundance these are:
* eucalypt (with 11 subtypes of eucalypt)
* acacia
* melaleuca
* rainforest
* callitris
* casuarina
* mangrove

Australia has the world’s sixth largest forest area, with a total of just over 147 million hectares, or around 21 per cent of the country’s total land area. Most of Australia’s forests are found in Queensland, with 52.8 million hectares of forest covering almost one-third of the state.

All our forests are home to unique native wildlife, many species of which are vulnerable or endangered. Animals as diverse as the cassowary in the rainforest of northern Queensland to the tiny woylie of WA’s south west all rely on the healthy forests for survival. Whether they be old growth forests that have seen no development, harvesting or agricultural clearing or a newly regenerated growth, all forests in Australia play an important part in the natural ecosystem.

Forests throughout Australia can be threatened by both man-made and natural processes. Fire, drought and flood are all natural phenomena that can be both friend and foe to the forests of Australia. Many eucalypt species are adapted to fire, whilse the river red gums of Victoria’s newest state forests are adapted to the flooding waters that can reach half way up their trunks. Although clear-felling is in decline, it remains an ever present pressure on our native forests.

In 2011, the UN is asking the world to take a closer look at the world’s forests by designating this year as the International Year of Forests. At Australian Geographic we are encouraging all Aussies to go bush! This year visit a forest, whether it’s eucalypt, rainforest or mangrove. Take a look at not only the plants, but the animals that so heavily rely on them and the amazing system of life that surrounds them. This year lets all see the forest for the trees!

Australia’s forestsby the numbers:

* 147 million hectares of native forest

* 4% of the world’s forests

* 79% are eucalypt forests

* 16% of native forests are in formal conservation reserves

* 70% of the total forest estate is privately managed

* More than 16,500 plants and 3,800 animals have been identified as forest-dependent

* 1287 forest-dwelling species are listed as threatened