Research areas - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Research areas

The Forest Industries Research Centre (FIRC) research areas as they relate to the forestry value chain fall into four research discipline areas.


Forest resource improvement and establishment

The forest value chain relies on building and improving forest resources in both plantations and native forests. This includes managing plantations and native forests to maximise tree health, survival, productivity, sustainability, biodiversity and product options, optimally matching species to planted forests, breeding and selecting trees for improved productivity, enhanced value and product options including timber, veneer, biofuel/bioenergy and carbon end products. Understanding the physiological drivers of growth in native and planted forests to ensure long term sustainability if also a key focus of the group. Forest Resource Improvement and Establishment is an integral component of the forest value chain and collaborates with researchers in all other aspects of the value chain.

FIRC’s Forest Resource Improvement and Establishment Team provides expertise in all aspects of the forest resource area including: understanding the impact of management (eg thinning, pruning, revegetation and fire management) on plantation and native forest sustainability, biodiversity and production; matching of species and varieties to sites using a range of tools including traditional tree improvement, quantitative genetics, molecular genetics, propagation technologies and rapid screening technologies such as Near Infrared spectroscopy (NIR) to select varieties for deployment in commercial plantations. The group also has expertise in gene flow and genetic pollution issues across the tropics and subtropics.

Key partners for the group include staff from the University of the Sunshine Coast, CSIRO plant industry, Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Southern Cross University, Hancock Plantations Queensland, and the University of Tasmania.

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.

Processing and utilisation

Modern wood processing and fibre utilisation Research and Development facilities at the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s Forest Products Innovation Centre at Salisbury, Brisbane, provide FIRC with access to leading edge research capacity. Large variation in wood properties available from hardwood and softwood plantations and from native forest resources requires innovative composite and engineered product solutions to maximize both product quality and value. Industry conversion options require new solutions that move on from traditional solid wood sawing technologies.

High fibre recovery from small logs utilising spindleless veneering technology, combined with latest generation adhesives and seasoning Research and Development opens up new horizons for engineered wood products such as cross laminated timber panels and massive timber construction solutions for multi-storey timber buildings. Advanced timber testing equipment in a National Association of Testing Authorities, Australia, accredited engineering laboratory at Salisbury and an emphasis on timber engineering at the University of the Sunshine Coast ideally positions the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and FIRC to address the need to incorporate local forest resources into these new product options that have been emerged from Europe and North America.

Forest growers and processors require new generation product options to maximize their returns by improving fibre utilization and value-adding while increasing market share for wood in the domestic and light industrial construction sectors. Traditional high value markets for architect designed feature use of wood in all construction, as well as furniture and cabinet making, requires ongoing Research and Development to support the utilisation of wood as a valued and modern material.

FIRC provides a platform to link this Research and Development to other stages in the value chain and consider in-field or pre-processing options that may provide savings and optimisation of resources and value.

Harvest and haulage

One of the most important elements of forest/plantation management plans is timber harvest/haulage. Harvest and haulage as a system includes several components such as tree felling operations, processing, primary transportation, loading, secondary transportation, unloading in the mills and road planning/construction. Due to high cost of harvesting/haulage operations it is essential to maximise the work efficiency of each component which can be achieved through innovative research solutions provided by our world class research team (AFORA). The team aims to (a) improve cost management and value recovery, (b) improve biomass recovery and utilisation and (c) improve logistics planning and execution.