Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Designing food and habitat trees for urban koalas: identifying short ecotypes of Corymbia intermedia

Stephen J. Trueman A B , Tracey V. McMahon A , Elektra L. Grant A , David A. Walton A , Brittany B. Elliott A and Helen M. Wallace A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Centre for Genetics, Ecology and Physiology, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore DC, Qld 4558, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: strueman@usc.edu.au

Australian Journal of Botany 65(4) 384-388 https://doi.org/10.1071/BT16235
Submitted: 22 November 2016  Accepted: 30 May 2017   Published: 29 June 2017

Abstract

The eucalypt trees eaten by koalas are generally tall, but urban landholders prefer to plant shorter trees that pose less danger of limbs falling from a great height or damaging powerlines. Our aim was to develop shorter eucalypt trees to provide food and shelter for koalas and other fauna in urban areas. We identified short ecotypes of Corymbia intermedia (R.T.Baker) K.D.Hill & L.A.S.Johnson growing naturally on exposed coastal headlands, and tested whether their seedlings were shorter than the seedlings of nearby tall ecotypes when planted in cultivation. Trees raised from the short ecotypes were 22–43% shorter than trees raised from the tall ecotypes, being around 5–7 m tall rather than 8–12 m tall after 8 years. This demonstrated that there was a genetic basis for the short stature of C. intermedia trees on coastal headlands. These shorter C. intermedia trees could be valuable food and habitat trees for urban koalas and other fauna.

Additional keywords: Corymbia, Eucalyptus, koala, Phascolarctos cinereus, street trees, tree height, urban fauna.


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