Indigenous and modern biomaterials derived from Triodia ('spinifex') grasslands in Australia.
Plant-derived fibres and resins can provide biomaterials with environmental, health and financial benefits. Australian arid zone grasses have not been explored as sources of modern biomaterials including building materials. Triodia grasslands are a dominant vegetation type in the arid and semiarid regions of Australia covering a third of the continent. Of the 69 identified Triodia species, 26 produce resin from specialised cells in the outer leaf epidermis. In Aboriginal culture, Triodia biomass and resin were valued for their usefulness in cladding shelters and as a hafting agent. Since European settlement, Triodia grasslands have been used for cattle grazing and burning is a common occurrence to improve pasture value and prevent large-scale fires. Although Triodia grasslands are relatively stable to fires, more frequent and large-scale fires impact on other fire sensitive woody and herbaceous species associated with Triodia and invasion of exotic weeds resulting in localised changes in vegetation structure and composition. The extent and change occurring in Triodia grasslands as a result of altered land-use practices, fire regimes, and changing climate warrant careful consideration of their future management. Localised harvesting of Triodia grasslands could have environmental benefits and provide much needed biomaterials for desert living. Research is underway to evaluate the material properties of Triodia biomass and resin in the context of Indigenous and western scientific knowledge. Here, we review uses of Triodia and highlight research needs if sustainable harvesting is to be considered.