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

Sustainable harvest rates of ironwood, Erythrophleum chlorostachys, in the Northern Territory, Australia

Garry D. Cook A D , Robert J. Taylor B , Richard J. Williams A and the late John C. G. Banks C

A Tropical Savannas Management CRC and CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, PMB 44, Winnellie, Darwin, NT 0822, Australia.

B Biodiversity Conservation, Department of Infrastructure Planning and Environment, PO Box 496, Palmerston, NT 0831, Australia. Present Address: Environmental Services Corporate Services and Infrastructure Northern Territory/Kimberley Department of Defence, Defence Establishment Berrimah PMB 13, Winnellie, NT 082, Australia.

C School of Resources, Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: Garry.Cook@csiro.au

Australian Journal of Botany 53(8) 821-826 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/BT05003
Submitted: 4 January 2005  Accepted: 11 July 2005   Published: 14 December 2005

Abstract

Ironwood, Erythrophleum chlorostachys (F.Muell.) Baill., is harvested for timber in the Northern Territory. Available data on ironwood growth rates and stand structures were collated to help inform sustainable management. In 32 plots (0.1 ha each) within 300 km2 of a widespread savanna vegetation type in the Northern Territory, ironwood trees represent ~11% of the total basal area of all trees and 12% of all individual trees >3 m high. Nevertheless, the density of potentially harvestable trees with a diameter at breast height >35 cm is low at 150 km–2, whereas the density of trees in the preferred size of >40 cm is only 30 km–2. The slow growth rate means that the sustainable harvest is only 1.8 trees km–2 year–1. This represents a maximum estimate that does not account for the high rate of poorly formed boles and the lower density of ironwood throughout most of its range. Limited data on tree growth rates of isolated seedlings and coppice indicate that trees could reach harvestable sizes in decades instead of centuries if competition with other species is reduced; however, there has been no assessment of the relative wood quality of fast- and slow-growing ironwoods.


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