Changes in a remnant of salmon gum Eucalyptus salmonophloia and York gum E. loxophleb
By D. A. Saunders, G. T. Smith, J. A. Ingram, R. I. Forrester
Biological Conservation, Volume 110, Issue 2, April 2003, Pages 245-256, ISSN 0006-3207, DOI: 10.1016/S0006-3207(02)00223-9.
The condition of salmon gums Eucalyptus salmonophloia with large hollows in them in a 15-ha patch of remnant salmon gum-York gum E. loxophleba woodland in the northern wheatbelt of Western Australia was examined in 1978. The patch was an important breeding area for six species of cockatoo, including two endangered species. The patch was revisited in 1981 when the condition of all 682 salmon gums and York gums in the patch was examined and each was measured and photographed. A further visit was made in 1997 when the condition of the surviving trees was examined and each was again measured and photographed. The condition of the trees at each visit was classified as 'good', 'staghorn', 'broken top', 'dead' or 'fallen.' Over the period of the study there was a serious decline in the condition of the trees, with few large trees in the 'good' category by 1997. The decline was particularly marked between 1978 and 1981 after a period of well-below average annual rainfall. Using data based on the rate of decline over the period 1978-1997, predictions were made of the fate of the trees in the patch. By 2125 only 46 (11% of the 1981 total) salmon gums were predicted to be alive with only one in the 'good' category. Only 16 (17%) York gums were predicted to be alive by 2125, with only one in the 'good' category. There was no evidence of any regeneration of woodland trees since 1929 when the patch was isolated by clearing for agriculture, and domestic livestock allowed to graze the patch. This deterioration of the dominant trees in the patch is symptomatic of remnant native vegetation over vast areas of Australia's extensively cleared wheat-sheep regions. The future of woodland patches like the one studied is bleak, as is the future of animals dependent on them for food, breeding sites and shelter. Active management, including fencing to exclude domestic livestock and measures to encourage regeneration of native plant communities, is necessary to counter the present regime of benign neglect that characterises most of Australia's management of native vegetation in agricultural landscapes.
Keywords: Salmon gum Eucalyptus salmonophloia-York gum E. loxophleba woodlands; Tree hollows (cavities); Degradation of native vegetation; Cockatoos