Sugarcane crop in foreground with a small patch of trees in the distance.

Forest fragment on sugar cane farm.

The roles of invasive species in tropical fragmented landscapes

CSIRO is researching plant community composition on the coastal floodplains of three major Wet Tropics rivers to provide an indicator of ecosystem health and the impact of habitat fragmentation.

  • 13 August 2009 | Updated 14 October 2011

Background

Fragmentation of wet tropical rainforest in Queensland, Australia, has occurred over the past 120 years. In the last 50 years it has been concentrated, so most fragments retain core structural and floristic indicators of their former forest type.

These fragments occupy a marginal habitat in a mosaic of broad-acre agriculture, urban and peri-urban development and transport corridors.

Overview

CSIRO researched the floristic and structural composition of plant communities within fragments of varying age, size and isolation on the coastal floodplains of three major Wet Tropics rivers.

Knowledge gained from this study will inform restoration and rehabilitation efforts.

This data is integral for base-line monitoring and as an indicator of ecosystem health.

Species were categorized using up to 14 functional traits relating to phylogenetics, recruitment requirements, growth rates, ecophysiology, reproductive behaviour, and their status as either native or exotic species. 

The role of invasive species and their effect on functional groups and biodiversity within the rainforest were also explored.

Current activities 

Current projects are using this approach to study of the condition of endangered littoral rainforest communities, and using functional traits to investigate the impact of weeds in other vegetation types.

Objectives

Knowledge gained from this study will inform restoration and rehabilitation efforts, aid conservation planning and help in understanding contested rainforest fragments and their resilience to future changes.

Find our more about CSIRO's research for use of our Sustainable tropical landscapes.