Australia is home to a number of ecosystems, including deserts, shrublands, tundras, montane lands, temperate areas, and tropical areas. Forest habitats are found within a number of these ecosystems. In fact, Australia is home to 457 individual forest areas, which together cover a total area of approximately 123 million hectares. This article highlights the different types of forests located in Australia.
Rainforests are found in several Australian states and territories. Some of the country's most well-known rainforests include: the monsoon rainforests of Kakadu National Park; the temperate rainforests of Tasmania; the fern-filled rainforests in the Otway Ranges of Victoria; the Daintree rainforests of Queensland; the dry rainforests of the Kimberley region; and the Gondwanan rainforests.
The Gondwanan rainforests, many of which are homes to endangered or threatened plant and animal species, are concentrated along the eastern coast of Australia. These areas make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This region is unique in that it was created by volcanic activity and is still home to one of the world's best examples of an erosion caldera.
6. Melaleuca Forests
Melaleuca forests are filled with types of honey myrtle and tea-trees, all of which belong to the myrtle plant family. Researchers have identified over 200 species of these plants, the vast majority of which can only be found in Australia. Melaleuca forests are primarily located in the northern regions of the country, where they cover approximately 6.4 million hectares. About 84% of the melaleuca forests are located Queensland. The trees in this type of forest are characterized by a unique-looking bark, which grows in several thin layers that tend to peel off the tree trunk. Melaleuca forests are ecologically important for a number of reasons. Primarily, these forests help maintain the health of coastal waters by preventing sedimentary deposits from washing into the ocean.
5. Eucalypt Forests
Eucalypt forests are filled with trees that belong to the Eucalypt plant family, which consists of roughly 900 species. These plants are characteristic of Australia, although they can be found throughout the Australasia region. Eucalypt forests are so common in the country that they make up approximately 75% of all of Australia's forest habitats. This ecosystem originated from rainforest regions and over time have evolved in response to poor nutrients and drought conditions. Eucalypt forests are divided into two types: mallee, which have multiple stems; and non-mallee, which have single stems. Non-mallee forests are the most common.
Eucalypt forests are important habitat for a number of animal species. Additionally, this type of ecosystem plays an important cultural role in many indigenous communities. Individuals from native cultures have long relied on Eucalypt forests as a source of wood for weapons and boats. These forests also provide oils that are used in traditional medicine.
4. Casuarina Forests
Casuarina forests are found in Australia, Southeast Asia, and on some Pacific islands. This type of forest is made up of 17 unique tree and shrub species, all of which are considered evergreens. Casuarina trees produce a unique looking fruit, which develop from red flowers and are often compared to pinecones. Only the tallest Casuarina species are considered forests, and the shrubs are found in other ecosystems. The Casuarina forest is most commonly found along rivers and in some coastal areas of Australia, where it covers a total area of 1.3 million hectares. These forests are important to some local economies, as the wood is harvested by the timber industry. However, some of these woodlands are protected, like those found in the Wadbilliga National Park and the Murray-Sunset National Park.
3. Callitris Forests
Callitris forests are made up of 16 types of coniferous trees, 13 of which are native to Australia. Callitris trees can grow anywhere from 16 to 82 feet in height and produce cones that vary in size from 0.12 to 1.18 inches in length, depending on sex. Given their appearance, Callitris trees are often referred to as cypress-pine, although this is a misnomer. These forests exist in drier areas throughout Australia and are typically located inland, rather than near coastal regions. Additionally, the most commonly cited growth pattern for Callitris forests is in small patches, although some larger areas have been recorded as well. Australia is home to approximately 2.1 million hectares of this type of forest, and 70% of this area is concentrated in New South Wales. Callitris trees are valued in the lumber industry as good wood for construction purposes, particularly for fencing, flooring, and cabinets.
2. Acacia Forests
Acacia forests are characterized by the acacia plant genus, which is made up of both trees and shrubs that are native to Africa and Australia. However, the acacia species found on these two continents are not closely related, according to some researchers. In Australia, this type of forest covers about 9.8 million hectares, making it the second largest forest ecosystem in the country. These forests are composed of nearly 1,000 acacia species, which is the most common plant variety found in Australia. Acacia forests prefer arid to semi-arid climates and are so common in Australia that they can be found in every state, as well as the Northern Territory. However, the greatest concentration of acacia forests (46%) grow in Queensland. The second largest amount of acacia forest (33%) is found within Western Australia. Acacia forests are an important ecosystem in the country because their root systems prevent topsoil erosion. Additionally, these trees are considered nitrogen-enriching, which means they release nitrogens into the surrounding soil. The resulting nitrogen-rich landscape helps a number of other plant types to thrive.
1. Mangrove Forests
Mangrove forests are unique in that they can survive in high saline environments. These types of forests grow along coasts, bays, tidal zones, and other areas with brackish waters within tropical and subtropical climates. Mangrove forests in Australia cover an area of about 4,440 square miles, making them the third largest mangrove ecosystem in the world. The largest percentage of Australian mangrove forests are located in Queensland (44%). The next largest mangrove forests grow in the Northern Territory (37%) and Western Australia (17%). As many as 45 tree species are found in these forests, depending on the climatic zone and level of water. In Australia, the white mangrove, also known as the grey mangrove, is the most common mangrove tree species. The root systems of mangrove trees protect coastal areas from erosion caused by storms and waves. Additionally, they work to filter sediment, trapping it among the roots and preventing it from building up in coastal waters.