Trees play an important role in human health and well being through the provision of food, shelter, fibre, and timber as well as cultural, spiritual and aesthetic values.
Trees also provide the following ecosystem services:
- Carbon storage- trees use photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrates used for growth
- Oxygen production- trees release oxygen during photosynthesis Nutrient
cycling- falling leaves, bark and limbs provide organic matter which enriches the soil
- Prevent soil erosion
- Reduce stormwater runoff
- Reducing risk of salinity by regulating level of groundwater table
- Filter and absorb air pollutants
Trees and Wildlife
Trees provide food, shelter, roosting and nesting sites for native fauna. Every part of a tree plays some ecological role. Leaves, sap, nectar, pollen, fruit and seed are all sources of food. The bark, trunk, branches, foliage, fallen logs, leaf litter and root system are home to a myriad of animals including mammals, birds, lizards, frogs, insects, worms and micro-organisms.
Nectar Food Trees
Nectar and pollen of many flowering plants are important food sources for insects, birds and mammals.
Some species rely solely on nectar and move about the landscape following the seasonal flowering of plants. Nectar dependant species such as the Grey-headed Flying-fox and Scarlet Honeyeater become most abundant in Byron Shire in autumn and winter coincident with the peak flowering of banksias and melaleucas and most eucalypts.
Koala Food Trees
Koalas feed exclusively on leaves of a few tree species, mainly eucalypts. Koalas have disappeared from up to two thirds of their former range in NSW and now mainly occur on the north coast and are listed as "vulnerable" under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.
Many important areas of koala habitat occur on private lands.
Fleshy-fruited Food Trees
Many plants, especially rainforest species, produce fruits that have a fleshy outer layer enclosing their seed(s). These fruits are an important food resource. Some native animals rely solely on fruit to meet their dietary requirements eg the Wompoo and Rose-crowned Fruit doves. These obligate frugivores need to live where there are a wide variety of fruiting plants to provide a constant supply of food.
Animals that eat fruit play a vital role in dispersing the seeds of their food plants to new areas for establishment.
In Australia many of our native animals are dependant on tree hollows for shelter and nesting.
Tree hollows are cavities in the branches or trunks of live or dead trees. They may be formed by breakages, lightning strike, and fungal or insect attack.
A diverse range of hollows of different sizes and tree position are needed across the landscape to cater for the variety of wildlife that use hollows.
Large hollows usually only develop with age e.g. in old growth forests where trees are 100â€™s of years old.
Tree Conservation and Protection
It is important to conserve isolated paddock trees, remnants of forest and regrowth in the landscape because these provide habitat â€˜stepping stonesâ€™ for native animals to travel between larger protected areas of forest.
Trees are protected in Byron Shire under the Tree Preservation Order 100KB.
Threatened species, populations and ecological communities in Byron Shire are also protected under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.
What Can You Do?
- Retain trees that bear hollows, produce fruits and nectar.
- Encourage the growth of trees in your neighbourhood especially if they form part of a wildlife corridor
- Become involved in a local community group working to restore native habitat
- Find out more about what species of plants and animals occur naturally in your area and create gardens that provide food and habitat for our native wildlife.
- Fence out riparian trees and paddock trees from stock access
References: Dept of Environment and Conservation (2004) National Resource Management Advisory Series.
For further information contact:
Biodiversity Extension Officer
Byron Shire Council
Phone: 02 6626 7119