Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Managing Australia's eucalypt gene pools: assessing the risk of exotic gene flow.

Abstract

Most eucalypts are endemic to Australia but they have been introduced into more than 100 countries and there are now over 20 million hectares of eucalypt plantations globally. These plantations are grown mainly for pulpwood but there is expanding interest in their use as a renewable source of solid wood products and energy. In Australia, the eucalypt plantation estate is nearing one million hectares, located mainly in temperate regions and dominated by Eucalyptus globulus and E. nitens (subgenus Symphyomyrtus), which are grown mainly outside their natural ranges. While eucalypt species from different major subgenera do not hybridise, hybrids within subgenera are often reported, including hybrids with plantation species. Concerns were raised in the late 1990 s that pollen-mediated gene flow from locally exotic plantation eucalypts may affect the integrity of adjacent native eucalypt gene pools. As Australia is the centre-of-origin of most eucalypt species used in plantations around the world, exotic gene flow is one of the many issues that require management for industry sustainability and certification purposes. We here summarise over a decade of research aimed at providing the framework and biological data to help assess and manage the risk of gene flow from these plantations into native gene pools in Australia.