The Wombat Stringybark Eucalypt SuperSite is located in the Wombat State Forest (near Ballarat) and managed by the University of Melbourne.
The on-site OzFlux eddy covariance tower monitors ecosystem fluxes of energy, water and carbon dioxide above-ground, while below-ground measurements are obtained using six fully automated Green House Gas chambers that are connected to a Fourier Transformed Infrared gas analysis system.
Experimental plots with rainfall reduction treatments are being used to study the effect of rainfall reduction and drought on the carbon and greenhouse gas cycles. These experimental approaches will allow a better understanding of the processes that control the carbon and greenhouse gas balance in the dry eucalypt forest systems in Australia. Thus, researchers will be able to make a thorough assessment of how changes in our climate will influence the carbon exchange processes in forests, and the vulnerabilities of these forests with regard to their carbon balance. In the long run the Wombat Flux site will also enable study of the impact of forest disturbances on the carbon and greenhouse gas balance.
TERN OzFlux at the Wombat Stringy Bark Eucalypt SuperSite
OzFlux maintains the flux tower instrumentation that continuously measures exchanges of carbon dioxide, water vapour and energy between the terrestrial ecosystem and atmosphere.
Flux data is available from the OzFlux data portal.
Education and Outreach
Postgraduate research projects have been carried out at the Wombat SuperSite, including a study of surface water balance at Wombat State Forest using eddy covariance and sap flow techniques.
The Wombat SuperSite hosts a postgraduate subject (Forests, Carbon and Climate Change) as part of the Master of Environment and Master of Forest and Ecosystem Science at the University of Melbourne.
Community organisations advocating for the protection of Wombat State Forest include:
The Victorian National Parks Association’s ‘Caught on Camera’ project trial in Wombat State Forest has been developed to help answer the question ‘What is the impact of fire on mammals?’. The report is available here.
Another major project is the nest box program, the ‘Thousand Hollows Project’, funded from a variety of sources such as the Victorian State Government, City of Greater Bendigo, and Mandalay Resources. As the Box Ironbark forests are greatly lacking in natural nest hollows, these nest boxes are readily taken up by hollow-dependent fauna. This program has resulted in (currently) 620 nest boxes on private and public land which are monitored annually for the endangered brush-tailed phascogale and the sugar glider. In six years of monitoring, there has been about 55 % of the nest boxes used by the target species.
Resources for Managers
- Detailed maps of Wombat State Forest can be accessed from the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment Forest Explorer website.
- The Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment and Environment carry out yearly surveys in Wombat State Forest for the (vulnerable in Victoria) Brush-tailed Phascogales.
Earlier research at the Wombat SuperSite
Kellas J.D. Jarrett R.G. and Morgan B.J.T. 1988. Changes in species composition following recent shelterwood cutting in mixed eucalypt stands in Wombat Forest Victoria. Australian Forestry 51, 112-118, DOI: 10.1080/00049158.1988.10674523
Kellas, J.D. Kile G.A. Jarrett R.G. and Morgan B.J.T. 1987. The occurrence and effects of Armillaria luteobubalina following partial cutting in mixed eucalypt stands in the Wombat Forest Victoria. Australian Forest Research 17, 263-276.
Ecological Lessons Learned at Wombat SuperSite
Effect of fuel reduction burns on green house gases from soils in dry eucalypt environments
Reference: Fest, B.J., Livesley, S.J., von Fischer, J.C. & Arndt, S.K. 2015. Repeated fuel reduction burns have little long-term impact on soil greenhouse gas exchange in a dry sclerophyll eucalypt forest. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 201, 17-25. doi: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2014.11.006
While climate change is likely to lead to an increased risk of fire in fire prone regions of south east Australia, little is known about how increased frequent fuel reduction burning will impact long-term forest soil greenhouse gas exchanges.
Well drained upland soils in temperate climates contain bacteria that are the main biological remover of methane, a potent green house gas, from the atmosphere. Soils in temperate forests are estimated to be responsible for 50% of methane removal in these systems.
Depending on their intensity, fuel reduction burns have the potential to alter some, if not all, of the factors regulating soil-atmosphere exchange of methane and carbon dioxide green house gases. Earlier studies have looked the short and medium-term effects of fuel reduction burns in different ecosystems following single experimental burns.
In this study, researchers measured soil flux (uptake and release) of methane and carbon dioxide from forest sites that have been burned at various frequencies of low intensity fire over the last 27 years (planned burning every 3 years, planned burning every 10 years and unburnt).
The results indicate that low intensity fuel reduction burns have no long-term cumulative effect on soil processes that regulate methane uptake and release. There was evidence that frequent planned burning has a small cumulative effect on soil carbon dioxide flux in temperate eucalypt forest systems and that frequently burned sites had slightly greater soil carbon dioxide releases.