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Growth and survival of termite-piped Eucalyptus tetrodonta and E-miniata in northern Australia: Implications for harvest of trees for didgeridoos

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 07:54 authored by Werner, PA, Lynda PriorLynda Prior, Forner, J
The most common canopy trees in the savannas of northern Australia, Eucalyptus tetrodonta and E. miniata are also two of the most common species harvested to make didgeridoos, the traditional musical instrument of northern Australian Aboriginal peoples now experiencing high demand from international markets. Most of the trees of the area naturally have hollow cores, or pipes, due to termite activity, but little is known of the relationships of the cores to size of tree, tree growth or survival. In a wooded savanna of northern Australia, 267 individual trees with known growth and survival rates were cored to determine degree of termite-piping. Generalized linear modelling and multi-model inference showed that frequency of piping increased with diameter (dbh) tree for E. tetrodonta, but >85% of E. miniata trees were piped regardless of dbh. Growth (dbh increment) and survival (4-year) were size-dependent. Survival of both species decreased strongly with degree of piping (pipe ratio). For any given diameter, the growth rate of E. miniata trees was independent of pipe ratio, but for E. tetrodonta trees decreased strongly with pipe ratio. From modelled data, a 10-cm tree with pipe ratio of 0.60 was very vulnerable, growing at 0.0 cm year−1 with 46% survival rate, whereas a 40-cm tree, even with large pipe ratios (0.80), grew 0.05 cm year−1 with 98% survival rate. Traditional methods of tree harvesting remove only those smaller hollow trees that are already suffering low growth rates and are likely to die before reaching maturity, whereas current large-scale commercial methods also remove trees with higher growth and survival rates—those trees most likely to contribute to sustainable tree populations. Incorporating traditional selection and harvest methods into current commercial operations would help ensure longevity of this source of livelihood for indigenous peoples of the region.


Publication title

Forest Ecology and Management








School of Natural Sciences


Elsevier Science Bv

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Po Box 211, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1000 Ae

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Copyright © 2008 The definitive version is available at

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Socio-economic Objectives

Terrestrial biodiversity

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