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

Accessibility links

Research projects

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


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.

Research Collaboration and Interchange

Lead Researchers: Prof Mark Brown, Prof Simon Lawson, A/Prof David Lee, Dr Helen Nahrung, Dr Andrew Hayes, Dr Madaline Healey

Funding agency: Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries 

Amount awarded: $1,074,432


This project funds the joint appointment of a team of forest scientist to deliver quality research, development, extension and education outcomes relevant to the needs of Industry.

Forest Industries Herbicide Research Consortium

Lead Researcher: Prof Mark Brown

Funding agency: FWPA and Industry Partners

Amount awarded: $1,000,000


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

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

Lead Researcher: Prof Mark Brown

Funding agency: FWPA and Industry Partners

Amount awarded: $1,000,000


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.

Assessing the economic impact of log damage to Eucalyptus nitens sawlogs during mechanised harvesting operations

Lead Researcher: Dr Mauricio Acuna

Funding agency: National Institute for Forest Products Innovation

Amount awarded: $270,706


This project will deliver improvements to practices and equipment to reduce log damage to Eucalyptus nitens

logs during mechanised harvesting, improving profitability for landowners, forest growers, contractors, and

machine manufacturers.

IEA Bioenergy Task 43

Lead Researcher: Prof Mark Brown

Funding agency: Funded by member country contributions

Amount awarded: N/A


USC is the Operating Agent for IEA Bioenergy Task 43, with Professor Mark Brown the Task Leader.

The Task explores technical and economic strategies to increase the quantity of biomass available, improve the quality of biomass delivered for different energy purposes, and explore strategies to increase the value and foster confidence in biomass supply for both direct and cascade use of biomass for energy.