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

Indigenous and modern biomaterials derived from Triodia (‘spinifex’) grasslands in Australia

Harshi K. Gamage A D , Subrata Mondal B , Lynley A. Wallis A , Paul Memmott A , Darren Martin B , Boyd R. Wright C and Susanne Schmidt C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Aboriginal Environments Research Centre, School of Architecture, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.

B Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.

C School of Agriculture and Food Science, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: h.gamage@uq.edu.au

Australian Journal of Botany 60(2) 114-127 https://doi.org/10.1071/BT11285
Submitted: 15 June 2011  Accepted: 14 December 2011   Published: 9 March 2012

Abstract

Plant-derived fibres and resins can provide biomaterials with environmental, health and financial benefits. Australian arid zone grasses have not been explored as sources of modern biomaterials including building materials. Triodia grasslands are a dominant vegetation type in the arid and semiarid regions of Australia covering a third of the continent. Of the 69 identified Triodia species, 26 produce resin from specialised cells in the outer leaf epidermis. In Aboriginal culture, Triodia biomass and resin were valued for their usefulness in cladding shelters and as a hafting agent. Since European settlement, Triodia grasslands have been used for cattle grazing and burning is a common occurrence to improve pasture value and prevent large-scale fires. Although Triodia grasslands are relatively stable to fires, more frequent and large-scale fires impact on other fire sensitive woody and herbaceous species associated with Triodia and invasion of exotic weeds resulting in localised changes in vegetation structure and composition. The extent and change occurring in Triodia grasslands as a result of altered land-use practices, fire regimes, and changing climate warrant careful consideration of their future management. Localised harvesting of Triodia grasslands could have environmental benefits and provide much needed biomaterials for desert living. Research is underway to evaluate the material properties of Triodia biomass and resin in the context of Indigenous and western scientific knowledge. Here, we review uses of Triodia and highlight research needs if sustainable harvesting is to be considered.


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