Paperbark Woodland

Ecosystem Description

Melaleuca viridiflora (broad leaf tea tree) +/- Eucalyptus spp. +/- Lophostemon suaveolens (swamp mahogany) open forest to open woodland. Humic gleyed texture contrast soils with impeded drainage, on alluvial plains.

Regional Ecosystem

7.3.8

Biodiversity status Endangered
Estimated extent Less than 10 to 30% of the pre-clearing area remaining
Sheoak Ridge Estimated to cover approx 5% of the reserve.
Location Southern plain

Within the flat plains on the southern section of the reserve there is an area that is dominated by broad leafed paperbark. The soil in this location exhibits two extremes throughout the year. During the wet season it is poorly drained and easily eroded if disturbed, while in the dry season it is hard, dry and very difficult to dig.

Surprisingly, even though Melaleuca viridiflora is the dominant species in this ecosystem, the floral composition is diverse. Three additional species of Melaleuca are present as well as four species of Acacia and the quinine tree (Petalostigma pubescnes).  Flowering herbaceous plants are easily found here as the grass cover is not under the Paperbark trees.

The best time to walk through this area is in the middle of a hot sunny day when the paperbark are in flower. Not only will you see the range of flower colours that this single species produces, but  also an amazing amount of bird life that comes in to feed on the nectar and insects.  The heat and bright light just adds to the ambiance.

Management

This ecosystem has be undergoing extensive repair over the last 10 years. In my opinion past disturbance has facilitated the proliferation of sheoaks  in the area.  The growth of sheoak had been so rapid that they started to smother the smaller Melaleuca trees and shade-out the grass cover.

Over a six year period sheoaks were systematically removed from the area. This was done by hand in order to minimise damage to the area. Occasionally large sheoaks that could not be felled without falling onto Paperbarks were ring-barked so they would die standing and eventually rot away.  Regenerating sheoaks are removed annually.

Low intensity mosaic burns are used to maintain this ecosystem, and the area is divided into two sections which are never burnt in the same year. It is hoped that this will prevent species loss during burns.

In 2010 a comparative Targeted Research Project (TRP) was carried out in this Ecosystem by Casey Maue from Stanford University.  This project investigated floral differences between areas where sheoaks were removed and areas where they were still present.

I’ll be adding a link to the project PDF in the near future.

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A private nature reserve in North Queensland

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