Forest and health management | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Forest and health management

The forest value chain relies on maximising tree health, survival and productivity, which can be compromised by pests and pathogens, site factor interactions including soil and nutrition, and landscape placement. Forest and Health Management is critical to a sustainable industry, as site-tree-pest interactions can reduce the establishment, survival, growth, form and quality of wood production.

FIRC’s Forest and Health Management Team provides expertise in each of these key aspects of forest health, using innovative and sustainable solutions for pest and disease management, including research into soils and nutrition, natural enemies, breeding for resistance to key pests and diseases, risk modelling, chemical ecology, and protecting Australian forests from exotic pests and pathogens.

Our Forest Health expertise is drawn from across the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and New South Wales Department of Primary Industries with FIRC launching a world-first international collaborative project Biological Control of Eucalypt Pests (BiCEP) to manage Australian pest insects overseas.

Pine forest

Biological control of insect pests of Eucalyptus plantations in the Mekong Region

Lead Researcher: A/Prof Simon Lawson

Funding agency: ACIAR

Amount awarded: $1,314,876

Project overview

The impacts of Australian-origin insects on eucalypt plantations globally is a rapidly increasing problem. In particular, a relatively small number of species are establishing and spreading in eucalypt-growing regions, leading scientists and managers to focus on collaborative efforts for the control and management of these pests (Garnas et al. 20121).
The gall wasp, Leptocybe invasa, has rapidly become the most serious eucalypt pest in much of its exotic range. The wasp was first detected in the Middle East and the Mediterranean region in 2000 and within 10 years had spread to over 30 countries across all eucalypt growing continents. In the Mekong region L. invasa has been causing serious damage to nurseries and young plantations in Vietnam since 2002, Thailand since 2003 and Cambodia and Lao PDR since 20072. The pest is a serious threat to the expanding eucalypt plantation industries in the Mekong region and its control is a high priority.
There is a limited ability for tree growers to control pests via conventional pest control, such as the use of pesticides (costly, ineffective in the field and not sustainable) or deployment of resistant germplasm (costly and subject to the introduction of new pests and pathogens with different resistance mechanisms). Only classical biological control, as part of an effective IPM strategy, offers a relatively low-cost and proven option to manage such pests, whilst promoting sustainable forest management.

Biological control has already been applied to this pest in a number of countries. The research focus for the Mekong region will be to build on this existing knowledge to:
• identify, evaluate and redistribute parasitoids already present in the region (either native or accidently introduced) and
• select, test and where appropriate release parasitoids from elsewhere, based on their performance in different regions.

Although L. invasa is currently the key threat to eucalypt plantations in the region, it is only one of a suite of eucalypt insects spreading across the world. The project will increase the Mekong region’s capability to effectively and rapidly respond to these future threats.

Forest Industries Herbicide Research Consortium

This project aims to maintain and increase the productive capacity of the Australian forest industry by ensuring the continued availability of effective, environmentally and socially acceptable chemical control options for weeds, pests and diseases by coordinating the forestry specific advice to the public, regulators, legislators and industry.

Lead Researcher: Prof Mark Brown

Funding agency: FWPA and Industry Partners

Amount awarded: $1,000,000

Science lab
Large tree in a forest

Biological invasions in forestry: drivers, predictors and mitigation for biosecurity and industry

Lead Researcher: Dr Helen Nahrung

Funding agency: Advance Qld

Amount awarded: $698,000

Project overview

This project will:

  1. Work alongside industry to manage current and emerging invasive forest species in Queensland
  2. Analyse historical invasions of exotic forest pests to identify drivers of invasion
  3. Examine export/import pathways and patterns of insect interceptions and detections across the biosecurity chain
  4. Identify biological traits and spatial-temporal factors linked with establishment
  5. Use these data to optimise surveillance strategies.

Findings will help identify drivers and predictors of invasion, assist policy-makers to develop prevention, early detection and eradication strategies, and minimise the impact of invasions on the forest industry through early warning, spread mitigation, and management.