Yellow box in flower

Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora) in flower.

How much diversity can you find in a Yellow Box?

CSIRO in collaboration with Greening Australia are working in a project to assess the genetic diversity of the iconic eucalyptus Yellow Box across the country in order to improve its restoration.

  • 16 December 2011

In this article

  1. Seed sourcing and restoration of iconic Yellow Box eucalyptus
  2. Seed collection details

Seed sourcing and restoration of iconic Yellow Box eucalyptus

Page 1 of 2

Once upon a time it was possible to travel through western Victoria, New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland and easily find healthy diverse stands of the iconic eucalyptus tree, Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora).

However, since European settlement, Yellow Box populations and the ecological communities to which they belong, have been severely diminished and fragmented. As much as 90 per cent of the ecological communities where Yellow Box resides have been cleared, mainly due to the soils where it grows favouring cropping, horticulture, and grazing enterprises

Although the remaining Yellow Box communities are now recognised as critically endangered and protected under both Commonwealth (EPBC) and State (NSW) legislation, there is an urgent need for information about the genetic diversity of this species to help conserve and manage it for future generations.

CSIRO scientist Dr. Linda Broadhurst in collaboration with Greening Australia, have commenced working on a project to assess the genetic diversity of Yellow Box where populations naturally occur across the country.

Why Yellow Box is important

Yellow Box is valued for its shade, shelter and timber qualities as it is highly resistant to decay and it is considered one of the best native trees for honey production.

Ecologically, Yellow Box is an important and popular revegetation species, providing valuable wildlife habitat to many insects, birds and mammal species, some of which are also threatened such as the Brown Treecreeper, Superb Parrot and Squirrel Glider.

The problem is that given the high levels of fragmentation that this species has undergone it is likely that many populations now contain low genetic diversity and are producing inbred seed. This limits the usefulness of these populations to be beneficial sources of high quality seed for long term revegetation success.

One of the essential criteria for species being reintroduced into the landscape is to ensure that as much genetic diversity as possible is planted or seeded back into a site. This is very important as low genetic diversity limits the opportunity for populations to cope with changes in the environment.

Therefore, defining the current genetic diversity status of a revegetation species such as Yellow Box will help support the establishment of resilient, self-sustaining ecological communities that are able to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

Researching the genetic diversity of Yellow Box- the story so far.

Since 2009 CSIRO and Greening Australia have been working on a Yellow Box genetics project. As part of this research, Greening Australia supplied 20 seed lots from natural collections across the southern tablelands of NSW.  CSIRO then assessed the levels of genetic diversity.

The results from the analysis were unexpected and as such further investigation is needed. The results showed the populations of Yellow Box sampled from the southern tablelands have variable levels of genetic diversity meaning that some populations are more useful as seed sources than others for revegetation. The study also showed that overall this species has levels of genetic diversity consistent with being a rare species.

The question we now need to answer is whether these results reflect the situation for all Yellow Box populations across their natural distribution, or are these results specific to the southern tableland populations?

Can you help us solve the mystery?

In order to answer this question more Yellow Box seed needs to be collected and analysed from  a diverse range of sites extending right across its natural distribution. In this crucial part of the research, Dr Linda Broadhurst would like to get the community involved and is asking anybody who is able to collect Yellow Box seed or has some already collected to be part of this exciting and important project.

If you are interested in participating, please find more information on the next page. 

A logo with text reading Greening Australia.