Australia’s most recent State of the Forests Report 2018 (SOFR 2018) is the fifth in a series of national reports on Australia’s forests, which covers a range of social, economic and environmental factors. By all accounts, the report details a nation that values its rich forest resources and actively seeks to manage the balance between economic and environmental sustainability. The management and conservation of Australia’s public and private forests requires a sound understanding of their extent, type, use and management, and SOFR 2018 provides a comprehensive view of these metrics over time.
As far as possible, SOFR 2018 includes data for the five-year period between July 2011 and June 2016. However, the varied nature of available data means that not all reported figures fall within this range, and SOFR 2018 also reports trends over longer periods of time where this is possible.
Australia’s forests are recognized and valued for their “diverse ecosystems and unique biodiversity; for their cultural heritage; for their provision of goods and services such as wood, carbon sequestration and storage, and soil and water protection; and for their aesthetic values and recreational opportunities,” notes the report. “At the same time, Australia’s forests are subject to a range of pressures, including extreme weather events, drought and climate change; invasive weeds, pests and diseases; changed fire regimes; clearing for urban development, mining, infrastructure or agriculture; and the legacy of previous land-management practices.”
Highlights from the report include:
Forest Statistics & Conditions
- Australia has 134 million hectares of forest, covering 17% of Australia’s land area. Queensland has the largest area of forest (39%), with the Northern Territory (18%), Western Australia (16%), and New South Wales (15%), making up much of the balance.
- Australia’s Native forest comprise 132 million hectares, 98% of Australia’s forest area; commercial plantations make up 1.95 million hectares, 1.5% of Australia’s forest area.
- Australia’s forest area has increased progressively since 2008. The net increase in forest area over the period 2011 to 2016 was 3.9 million hectares.
- The most common threats to nationally listed forest-dwelling fauna and flora include forest loss from clearing for agriculture and urban and industrial development; impacts of predators; small population sizes; and unsuitable fire regimes.
- Carbon stocks in Australia’s forests increased by 0.6%, to 21,949 million tons during the period 2011–16. In addition, 94 million tons of carbon was present in wood and wood products in use in 2016, and 50 million tons of carbon in wood and wood products in landfill. Forests contributed to the net sequestration by the land sector of an amount of carbon dioxide that offset 3.5% of total human-induced greenhouse gas emissions in Australia over this period.
Working Forests & Inventory Availability
- The area of commercial plantations increased from 1990 to 2010 but reduced by 44 thousand hectares (2%) between 2010–11 and 2014–15. The commercial plantation area where the trees are privately owned increased to 79% in 2014–15.
- The extent of native forest that is available and suitable for commercial wood production on private and public land was 28.1 million hectares in 2015–16. The net harvestable area of multiple-use public native forests was 5.0 million hectares in 2015–16.
- The average annual area of multiple-use public native forest from which wood was harvested decreased to 78 thousand hectares over the period 2011–12 to 2015–16. Within this area, the proportion harvested by clearcutting decreased to 9%.
Log Harvests & Forest Industry Impacts
- Australia’s log harvest in 2015–16 was 30.1 million cubic meters, a 13% increase from 2010–11. The volume of logs harvested from commercial plantations increased over this period, and 86% of the total log harvest was derived from commercial plantations in 2015–16.
- In 2015–16, the value of logs harvested from native forests and commercial plantations was $2.3 billion. In 2015–16, the value of production of wood products industries was $23.7 billion. In 2015–16, the value added by the forest and wood products industries was $8.6 billion.
- Australia’s trade in wood products experienced strong growth over the past decade, with the sum of imports and exports exceeding $8 billion for the first time in 2015–16. Australia continues to be a net importer of wood and wood products.
- The patterns of annual consumption of forest products in Australia changed over the period 2010–11 to 2015–16.
- Annual consumption of sawnwood increased by 12%, to 5.6 million cubic meters
- Annual consumption of wood-based panels increased by 5%, to 2.1 million cubic meters
- Annual consumption of paper and paperboard fell by 8%, to 3.7 million cubic meters