Tasmanian Eucalyptus Forests

Depending on altitude and other factors, these forests may be dominated by various eucalypts like Eucalytus bicostata, E. dalrympleana, E. delegatensis, E. ovata, E. regnans, E. subcrenulata and a variety of endemic species such as E. amygdalina, E, coccifera, E. gunnii, E. johnstonii, E. tasmanica, E. urnigera and E. vernicosa (Myrtaceae). In fact, there are some 13 eucalypts endemic to Tasmania. In the lowlands, E. ovata is the most widely distributed species, while other lowland species include the giant E. regnans, which is the tallest of all eucalypts reaching heights of 130 m. These grand forests are limited by their requirement for good fertile soils. On the chert ridges near Maydena, for example, E. regnans is replaced by the endemic E. amygdalina. But where it does occur, it often dwarfs understory trees such as Bedfordia salicina, Olearia argophylla and Pomaderris apetala, which can reach heights of 30 m or so. The few shrubs of these forests include Pittosporum bicolor and various endemic species like Aristolelia peducularis (Elaeocarpaceae) and Tasmannia lanceolata (Winteraceae). Studies show, however, that E. regnans, with a life span of some 350 years, is eventually replaced by the near endemic Nothofagus cunninghamii in the absence of forest fires. Also of predominantly lowland distribution, is the near endemic Eucalytus globulus. It forms forests up to 50 m tall in some coastal areas. Outside Tasmania, two small, possibly relict stands of this species occur in southern Victoria. At elevations between 350-1000m, Eucalytus dalrympleana and E. delegatensis usually become the main species, especially on soils of low fertility. Here the under storey species typically include Bedfordia salicina, Pomaderris apetala and Tasmania lanceolata, while in more open stands, especially under Eucalytus dalrympleana, are Acacia dealbata and the endemic Lomatia tinctoria (Proteaceae). The main eucalypts extending up to the tree line (at an altitude of about 1400 m) are Eucalytus subcrenulata and the endemic E. coccifera, where they experience several months of snow and frost. In fact, these are the most cold resistant of the eucalypts except for the shrubby Eucalytus vernicosa found on the plateaus.

At lower altitudes, particularly in the southeast, Eucalytus coccifera may be partially replaced by the endemic E. johnstonii, and another endemic species Eucalytus urnigera becomes an important constituent of the forest. The shrub layer species of these montane forests vary from place to place. On the dolerite, in the Mt Wellington area near Hobart these include various endemic species such as Cyathodes parvifolia, Richea dracophylla (Epacridaceae), Gaultheria hispida (Ericaceae) and Telopea truncata (Proteaceae). In the Cradle Mountain area, a mallee-like (i.e. tracks of land dominated by many-stemmed eucalypts) community has developed in which Eucalytus coccifera is co-dominant with Nothofagus cunninghamii and the endemic Phyllocladus aspeniifolius (Podocarpaceae). In these boulder-strewn forests there is a wealth of shrubs including the endemic conifer Microcachrys tetragona (Podocarpaceae), and Bellendena montana (Proteaceae), which is also endemic at generic level. Moving to the northeast to the Ben Lomond, for example, Eucalytus coccifera is replaced by the endemic Eucalytus gunnii as the main tree line species. It also occurs on the central Plateau, where it may be associated with another endemic Eucalytus rodwayi. The latter tends to occur on or around bleak waterlogged moors. Here the few under storey species that can tolerate such conditions include Leptospermum lanigerum and the endemic Callistemon viridiflorus (Myrtaceae).

Tasmanian Nothofagus cunninghamii Forest

These once widespread ancient, temperate rain forests dominated by the near endemic Nothofagus cunninghamii are now mainly confined to Tasmania, with a few isolated occurrences in Victoria and in the eastern highlands. In Tasmania they occupy the wetter western areas and range from sea level to about 1000 m, with some of the best stands on the eastern slopes of the Harz Mountains, Nothofagus cunninghamii is an evergreen species that can reach heights of 50 m. The most common associate tree is Atherosperma moschatum while others include endemics such as Dacrydium franklinii (Podocarpaceae), Eucryphia lucida and E. milligani (Eucryphiaceae), and in the sub-alpine zones Phyllocladus aspleniifolius (Podocarpaceae). Shrubs are usually absent, but the tree fern Dicksonia antarctica is frequently present. As with all temperate rain forest, the trees are usually festooned with epiphytes including many bryophytes and ferns and also the unusual Tmesipteris (a member of the primitive seedless vascular plant group Psilopsida that may have given rise to the ferns). The only angiosperm epiphyte is the endemic Prionotes ceritheroides, which is regarded as the most primitive member of the Epacridaceae. The herbaceous ground layer typically includes Histiopteris incisa, Hypolepis rugulosa, and the sedge Gahnia psittacorum in some of the wetter areas. In more open parts of the forest, shrubs and small trees are usually more evident and typically include various endemic species such as Agastachys odorata, Cenarrhenes nitida, Telopea truncata (Proteaceae), Anopterus glandulosus (Escalloniaceae), Aristotelia peduncularis (Elaeocarpaceae) and Richae pandanifolia (Epacridaceae). At higher altitudes, bordering the alpine zones Nothofagus cunninghamii forms thickets, either in pure stands or in association with the two endemics Anodopetalum biglandulosum (Cunonaceae) and Telopea truncata (Proteaceae).

Tasmanian Nothofagus gunnii Forest/Scrub

At elevations above 1300 m, forests or scrublands dominated by the endemic Nothofagus gunnii occur. They tend to be confined to rock-strewn areas (stonefields) or talus slopes, or in shallow depressions above the tree line. Associated shrubs are few, but include the two endemics Athrotaxus selaginoides (Taxodiaceae) and Eucalytus coccifera that form trees at lower levels. Other such as Tasmania lanceolata and various endemics like Cyathodes straminea (Epacridaceae), Diselma archeri (Cupressaceae), Olearia alpina and O. pinifolia (Asteraceae) occur on the plateaus.

Tasmanian Heathlands

In Tasmania and Australia heaths are not dominated by members of the Ericaceae as in the northern hemisphere, but by members of the closely related family Epacridaceae and other taxa particularly Leptospermum (Myrtaceae). There are eight species of Leptospermum in Tasmania four of which are endemic. Heaths dominated by the endemic Leptospermum glaucescens occur in the west and wetter parts of the southeast and commonly include other shrubby species such as Bauera rubioides, Leptospermum scoparium and L. nitidum. Also in the southeast, especially on the Freycinet Peninsula, the endemic Leptospermum grandiflorum forms heath-like communities sometimes in association with Hakea rostrata. Leptospermum lanigerum is another heath forming species confined to slightly wetter soils in the north and east, but extends from sea level to the sub alpine zone. Along the coast there are various dune heath communities in which several endemic shrubs may be encountered including Epacris barbata (Epacridaceae), Eriostemon virginatus (Rutaceae), Pultenaea diffusa (Fabaceae) and the endemic herb Stenopetalum lineare (Brassicaceae). In much wetter areas where the water table lays close to the surface for long periods a kind of wet heath can be found that is transitional between sedgelands and dry heath and know locally as sedge heath. Here the main scrub species are of include Epacris lanuginosa, Leucopogon australis and L. collins (Epacridaceae), and there may be several endemic shrubs like Baeckia leptocaulis (Mrytaceae), Epacris corymbiflora, E. gunnii (Epacridaceae) and Oschatzia saxifraga (Apiaceae). The herbaceous elements may include Calorophus minor, Gymnocephalus sphaerocephalus, Hypolaena fastigiata, Leptocarpus tenax and Lepyrodia scariosa.

Heaths in the more, demanding, alpine conditions found on the plateaus are composed of various combinations of mainly endemic species such as Bellendena montana, Orites acicularis, O. revolute, Persoonia gunnii (Proteaceae), Cyathodes petiolaris, Monotoca empetrifolia, Richea scoparia (Epacridaceae), Helichrysum backhousei and Olearia ledifolia (Asteraceae). The plateaus also have a number of gymnosperm dominated heath-like communities, which are unique to Tasmania. Microcachrys tetragona (Podocarpaceae) is a decumbent or semi-erect species that forms tangled heaths either carpeting the ground in pure stands or in association with Pentachondra pumila and the endemic Cyathodes dealbata (Epacridaceae). Other heath-forming endemic conifers on the plateaus are Diselma archeri (Cupressaceae) and Microstrobus niphophilus (Podocarpaceae). These can form very dense heath-like communities either individually as local dominants or in association. In more sheltered habitats they can assume shrub proportions. At slightly lower altitudes, in the sub alpine belt, heath also occurs within woodlands, especially on talus slopes or in areas affected by cold air drainage. Species more typically found in these situations are again largely represented by endemics such as Lomatia polymorpha (Proteaceae), Richea sprengeloids (Epacridaceae) and Westringia rubrifolia (Lamiaceae).

Tasmanian Sedgefields

Sedgefields dominated by Carpha alpina, Oreobolus oumilio and Uncinnia flaccida (Cyperaceae) occur on all of the higher mountains of Tasmania. They occupy soils that are occasionally waterlogged but may dry out during dry summers.  Their swards may be closed or open but are often dotted with various dwarf shrubs such as Hakea lissocarpus, Lissanthe montana, Olearia algida and the endemic Pernettya tasmanica (Ericaceae). Cushion plants may also be present especially Pimelea pygmea and the endemic Abrotanella fostorioides (Asteraceae). At lower altitudes, sedges may be less dominant and, in fact, Astelia alpina of the Liliaceae is the dominant species over extensive areas of waterlogged soils often forming pure stands.

Tasmanian Fjellfields

The term ‘fjell’ was originally used to describe a hill or mountain, a rocky or barren hill or a moor. It was first used in Australia to describe the rock-strewn areas of the Tasmanian plateaus. It has since become the basis of the word ‘feldmark (or Fjaeldmark)’ used by southern hemisphere botanists to describe exposed, often spectacular, upland communities of dwarf flowering plants mosses and lichens usually dominated by cushion plants (chamaeophytes). Paradoxically many of the plants are draught resistant despite the fact that these areas often experience high levels of precipitation. However, the explanation is that most of the water falls as snow and in some of the more exposed areas this simply gets blown away, while any water from melting snow or rain is shed as surface runoff or percolates rapidly through the fragmented substratum. On Tasmania the four main cushion plants, all endemic, is Donatia novae-hollandiae (Donatiaceae), Dracophyllum minimum (Epacridaceae), Ewartia meredithae (Asteraceae) and Pterygeropappus lawrencii (Asteraceae). Other cushion plants may include Abrotanella forsterioides, Centrolepis monogyna and Phyllachne colensoi, but, in addition, there are a number of mosses that form cushion such as Dicranium billardieri and Racomitrium pruinosum.  These plants are covered by snow during winter and in some cases may be exposed only for a few months during summer. Their growth rates can therefore be extremely slow, but despite this they often achieve diameters of a metre or more, and often coalesce with neighbouring plants to form a tight mosaic of different species. The cushion also provide seed beds for other species and are the main habitat for certain specialist species such as Prasophyllum alpinum, one variety of Sprengelia incarnata, and the endemic Plantago gunnii (Plantaginaceae).

Tasmanian Coastal Dunes

In southeastern Tasmania on Bakers Beach facing the Bass Strait the dune vegetation along a study transect could be divided in foredunes dominated by Spinifex hirsutus, new sand with common species such as Pteridium esculentum, older sand largely dominated by Lomandra longifolia and Pteridium esculentum especially in the swales, and swamp forest dominated by Melaleuca ericifolia.

Foredunes and Embryonic Dunes with Spinifex hirsutum
Here Spinifex hirstum forms open-grasslands on the smaller seaward foredunes but this gives way to a rich mixture of composite shrubs (including Helichrysum paralium), scramblers (such as Rhogodia baccata and Tetragonia implexicoma), and Acacia sophorae on the second larger foredunes. Other species found in this zone include Acaena novae-zelandiae, Cakile edentula, Carpobrotus rossii, Leucopogon parviflorus, Oxalis corniculata and Stipa flavescens.

New Sand with Pteridium esculentum
Here Oxalis corniculata and Pteridium esculentum are typically the most common species. Others include various foredune species together with Dichondra repens, Lepidosperma gladiatum and Senecio minimus.

Older Sand with Lomandra longifolia and Pteridium esculentum
Here Lomandra longifolia and Pteridium esculentum dominate the swales together with various small herbs while the ridges have similar vegatation to the the second fordune with scramblers and shrubs. Acacia sophorae can reach heights of up to 2 m. Other species include Acacia echinata, Acrotriche serrulata, Banksia marginata, Coprosma quadrifida, Cymbonotus lawsonianus, Dichelachne crinita, Geranium sessiliflorum, Glycine clandestina, Helichrysum scorpioides, Plantago varia, Primelea humilis and Scleranthus biflorus.

Melaleuca ericifolia Swamp Forest

These species-poor forests at the rear of the dune system can reach heights of up to 10 m. Other species include Acacia verticillata, Bursaria spinosa, Cassytha melantha, Helichrysum dendroideum, Leptospermum lanigerum and Rubus parvifolius.

Tasmanian Alpine Sand Dunes

Associated with Lake Augusta on the Central Plateau of Tasmania there are large parabolic dunes. This is an extremely rare feature of alpine zones and has considerable conservation value. Beyond the foredunes zonation was not particularly strong but the vegetation could be divided in to nine vegetation types. These included Orites revoluta open shrubland, Olearia algida open shrubland, Grevillea australis open shrubland, Richea acerosa-Orites revoluta shrubland, Richea acerosa heath, Helichrysum hookeri heath, Helichrysum hookeri open shrubland, fen and marsupial lawn. However, most of these vegetation types have species in common.

Orites revoluta Open Shrubland
This vegetation, dominated by the Tasmanian endemic Orites revoluta, occurred in areas where fresh sand was being deposited on previously stable areas. Other relatively common species include Acaena novae-zelandiae and Senecio gunnii.  

Olearia algida Open Shrubland
This vegetation, dominated by the Tasmanian endemic Olearia algida, represented one of the foredune communites and characterisic some of the steeper slopes.  With its sand binding abilities it was helping to form and maintain the foredunes. Other relatively common species include Grevillea australis, Helichrysum hookeri and Lissanthe montana.

Grevillea australis Open Shrubland
Occurring on some of the less steep parts of the foredunes, this community also played a role in maintaining the stability of these dunes. Other relatively common species include Asperula gunnii, Carex gaudichaudiana, Leptorhynchos squamatus, Microseris scapigera, Oreomyrrhis ciliata, Restia australis, Velleia montana and the Tasmanian endemic Cyathodes nitida. In fact, this latter species is Central Plateau  endemic mainly confined to dunes.

Richea acerosa-Orites revoluta Shrubland
Occurring on the driest parts of stable dunes this vegetation intergrades with Richea acerosa heath where the water table comes closer to the surface. Both of the dominant species are endemic to Tasmania.  Other relatively common species include Deyeuxia monticola, Epacris gunnii and the Tasmanian endemic Monotoca empetrifolia.

Richea acerosa Heath
Heath dominated by the Tasmanian endemic Richea acerosa occurs on relatively humid, stable dunes where the water table comes close to the surface. Other relatively common species include Craspedia alpina, Empodisma minus, Epacris petrophila, Erigeron pappochromus, Leucopogon pilifer, Lycopodium fastigiatum and the Tasmanian endemic Pimelea pygmaea.

Helichrysum hookeri heath
Confined to stable dunes this community intergrades with the Richea acerosa heath in the more humid areas. Other relatively common species include Carpha alpina, Cotula alpina, Gnaphalium traversii, Hypericum japonicum and Plantago glabrata.  

Helichrysum hookeri open shrubland
This community is a feature of remobilised sand derived from well-dveloped soils. Other species include Brachyscome radicata and Schoenus calyptratus.

This vegetation, which is heavily grazed by marsupials and can have a bowling green-like surface, is characteristic of fertile, shallow, sandy clays. Many of the species found associated with other vegetation types can be found here including the Tasmanian endemic Abrotanella forsteroides.

Marsupial Lawn

Heavily grazed by marsupials, the vegetation is characteristic of deep, less fertile sands.  Typical species include Agrostis venusta, Brachyscome radicata, Gonocarpus micranthus, Hypericum japonicum, Isotoma fluvialis, Ranunculus nanus, Schoenus calyptratus, and Velleia montana.


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