The treetoped trees are among Australia’s most popular, with more than 200,000 trees planted in NSW alone each year.
However, with less than one-quarter of a per cent of the nation’s population, treetopes are among the most overlooked.
In Victoria, the trees have been planted in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef in Victoria’s remote Outback, a rare place for them to grow.
But in NSW, a treetope is typically planted on the coast and is planted in a semi-arid landscape, where water is less common and the soil is more prone to erosion.
“The problem with planting treetopic trees in semi- arid environments is that you don’t know what’s going to happen down the line,” said Dr Sarah Walshe, a researcher at the Australian Museum and one of the first to document the impact of a treetype’s growth on the reef.
“If you plant a treelike tree on a reef you are creating a habitat that can be destroyed in the future.”
And so you can’t really tell what’s coming from where and how.
“Dr Walsch has published two other studies that have shown the damage caused by tree-planting can be severe.
The first, published in Nature Conservation Science in 2011, looked at how the trees were impacting on the water quality of the waters surrounding Port Stephens, which is about 40 kilometres from Hobart.
Dr Walfele studied the impact that the trees could have on the corals and sea life that inhabit the area.
The second study, published last year, found that planting treelikes in areas where they are invasive was causing a range of problems.”
One of the things that we were concerned about was that the tree-planting is creating areas that are not conducive for the growth of corals, which can affect the habitat,” she said.”
What we found was that even though the trees are relatively small in size, they can actually act like a pest.
“The researchers compared the numbers of coral populations on the nearby Great Barrier reef to the numbers at Port Stephens.
They found the numbers on the Great Australian Bight and the waters off Port Stephens had both declined in recent years.”
We found that there’s a lot of habitat loss in those areas, that’s why we started to investigate the impacts of tree-nesting in these areas,” Dr Walfle said.”[The study] showed that the coral communities were not being protected in these regions, so they were basically being hit by a tsunami.
“There’s a whole range of things that can go wrong, and we wanted to find out what we could do to protect those habitats.”
In 2013, the research was funded by the Queensland Government.
In the latest study, Dr Walschelt and her colleagues from the University of New South Wales and the Australian National University found that while tree-and-treetoped species such as the black-eyed lemur, or Black-eyed tree, were more resilient to climate change, they were vulnerable to extinction.
The researchers also found that the number of trees on the Bight, the southernmost part of the Bheremse reef, had increased by a third.
“These tree- and tree-growing species have a higher likelihood of being in trouble if they are not managed appropriately, and therefore it is important that the authorities are prepared to address this issue,” Dr Williams said.
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