Eucalyptus - part 2: findings from trial plantings, and silvicultural requirements in the British Isles

Leslie, Andrew and Purse, John (2016) Eucalyptus - part 2: findings from trial plantings, and silvicultural requirements in the British Isles. Quarterly Journal of Forestry, 110 (3). pp. 161-168.

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Abstract

Despite a long history of growing Eucalyptus species in arboriculture in Britain (Purse and Leslie, 2016), there has been little interest in their potential for forestry until very recently. This situation is in marked contrast to that in many other countries, where many species found various forestry uses, notably for firewood production and for land reclamation (Zacharin, 1978; FAO, 1979). However, they did not become important timber species due to the poor sawmilling properties of trees, which were young compared to old-growth trees used for timber in their native Australia (e.g. Barr, 1996; Santos 1997). This situation changed in many countries with the discovery that certain eucalypts produce excellent quality short-fibre pulp using the Kraft and sulphite chemical processes (Doughty, 2000). There was burgeoning demand for such pulp from the 1950s, and increasingly limited supplies of other suitable hardwood feedstocks, such as birch in Scandinavia and mixed hardwoods in the USA. This led to a surge of commercially-driven research on Eucalyptus, spanning silviculture, genetics, propagation and wood properties. This established that many eucalypts respond well to intensive silviculture, and can produce trees of a size and quality suitable for pulp on rotations of 7-10 years. The approach became known as short rotation forestry (SRF), and is practiced on an immense scale worldwide today, largely by the private sector (Marcus Wallenberg Foundation, 1984; Carle and Holmgren, 2008).

The UK never has had a chemical pulp industry, and so these developments had little impact. Small trials of Eucalyptus for forestry in the UK only started in the 1950s (Macdonald et. al., 1957) while the first systematic trials in the UK were in the 1980s (Evans, 1986), although in Ireland trials started earlier in the 20th century (O’Beirne, 1945; Mooney, 1960). Few of these trials were successful, and survival of the trees was frequently poor (Evans, 1980). These findings, coupled with poor timber quality, meant that little interest was generated. An exception was the small commercial coppice plantations supplying the floristry market with cut foliage. These have existed in Britain since the 1960s, mainly in south-west England and in north Wales. Similar plantations were developed in Ireland at this time (Pollock, 1984; Forrest, 2000). In this article we review these and more recent trials in the context of commercial eucalyptus forestry elsewhere in the world, and identify the opportunities and risks that would be associated with undertaking larger-scale plantings of Eucalyptus species in Britain. We have previously discussed the species that are likely to be most suitable for this purpose (Purse and Leslie, 2016).

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: Quarterly Journal of Forestry
Publisher: Royal Forestry Society
ISSN: 0033-5568
Departments: Faculty of Health and Science > Science, Natural Resources and Outdoor Studies > Forestry, Conservation & Applied Science
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2017 16:07
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2017 19:11
URI: http://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/2695

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