Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

Tree use by koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) after fire in remnant coastal forest

Alison Matthews A B , Daniel Lunney A , Shaan Gresser A and Wendy Maitz A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSW), PO Box 1967, Hurstville, NSW 2220, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Institute for Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, PO Box 789, Albury, NSW 2640, Australia. Email: almatthews@csu.edu.au

Wildlife Research 34(2) 84-93 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR06075
Submitted: 20 June 2006  Accepted: 19 February 2007   Published: 24 April 2007


The aim of this study was to examine the effects of fire on resource use by a population of koalas in remnant coastal forest. Fifty-five koalas were monitored regularly by radio-tracking for up to 35 months. The attributes of each tree in which the koala was sighted were recorded, giving a total of 8390 records. Analyses were undertaken on a range of ecological information. Regeneration of the forest began immediately following the fires and within three months koalas were seen among the epicormic growth. From a total 4631 trees used by koalas, 3247 (70%) were burnt. Observations of koalas feeding included 53% in burnt trees. Koalas changed trees frequently; individual trees were used once only on 3555 occasions (42% of all observations). Of all the trees used, 95% were used by only one collared koala; no trees were used by more than three koalas. Swamp mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta) was the tree species most frequently used by koalas, particularly at night and by breeding females. Koalas preferred trees of larger diameter (>30 cm) and used significantly taller trees during summer. This study has shown that resource depletion from intense wildfire is short-term for koalas because they utilise burnt trees within months of the fire for both food and shelter.


This work is the outcome of a long-term effort by many people with complementary skills: the late John Barker, Tiffany Knott, Anne Carey, Glen Stevenson, Native Animal Trust Fund, Port Stephens Shire Council, Hunter Water, NPWS local staff, local veterinarians, John Simpson RZM, and Dionne Coburn. External Funding support: Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife, EPA Environmental Trusts, Koala and Other Endangered Species trust fund. This research was conducted under the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Animal Ethics Committee permit No. 950301/01.


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