Fuelwood and Biodiversity
Fuelwood plantations can have a positive or negative effect on biodiversity, depending on where they are established and how they are managed.
A fuelwood plantation established on land previous cleared for other uses, can be used to reclaim land for biodiversity if it provides habitat for a variety of local vegetation and wildlife. But will have negative impacts on biodiversity if it displaces complex, native habitats.
A fuelwood plantation can provide habitat for native vegetation and wildlife, if a variety of carefully chosed plant species other than the plantation crops are cultivated within or around the plantation.
Plantations of fuelwood trees provide a source of renewable, greenhouse-neutral energy. Demand for greenhouse-neutral energy is likely to place increased demand for land, much of which is already alienated from biodiversity maintenance to grow food and fibre for human needs.
Forestry and Fauna Biodiversity - Queensland
Measurement and integration of fauna biodiversity values in Queensland agroforestry systems. Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation. 2002.5
Management and design options recommended for enhancing biodiversity values in farm forestry plantations are practical and ecologically sustainable and can be successfully incorporated into farm forestry practices without significantly compromising timber production costs.
With highest vertebrate diversity recorded in the 38 to 40.5 year old plantations, it is recommended that the siting, establishment and management of new eucalypt plantations incorporate habitat features found in these older plantations. These features include good connectivity to native forest, the retention of logs and stumps, suppression of a thick grassy groundcover, a good litter layer, encouragement of a layered understorey of shrubs and small trees and exclusion of grazing animals and hot fires.
For practical purposes, retention of stumps and logs and development of a complex shrubby understorey should occur every second planting row. To provide reasonable time for development and use of a complex shrubby understorey by vertebrates, maximize time between planting and harvest by growing trees for longer term products such as pole timbers.
It is recommended measuring the biodiversity benefits of establishing a complex shrubby understorey beneath plantation trees, by using commercial, shade-tolerant, native species that can be harvested for foliage, flower, and other products.