Wet sclerophyll forests
The spectacular wet sclerophyll forests are often dominated by towering gum trees and open canopy. They are an important habitat for many animals, sandwiched between the rainforets and the open woodlands.
Wet sclerophyll forests grow up to 60m tall in moist cloudy uplands on deep well-drained soils with up to 2500m rainfall each year. They are the most developed of the eucalyptus forests and woodlands. Eucalyptus grandis, Eucalyptus resinifera and Syncarpia glomulifera can dominate these tall open forests along the western margins of the central rainforest massif. As the rainfall decreases and soil fertiltiy declines to the west, they are replaced by more open woodlands. Understoreys in the tall open forests range from well developed rainforest to dense grass.
Ecologically significant changes to the rainforest/sclerophyll forest boundary have taken place over the last 50 years. Large areas of wet sclerophyll forest types, in particular, are being progressively converted to simple rainforest as a result of fire exclusion or reduced fire frequency. Presently, wet sclerophyll forests occur as a discontinuous strip up to four kilometres wide along the western margin of the Wet Tropics rainforests and occupy approximately 54,000ha. This represents only half their original extent, identified from aerial photography taken in the 1940s. The wet sclerophyll forests, commonly dominated by rose gum or red mahogany, have evolved under a fire regime of regular Aboriginal burning which has favoured the growth of fire tolerant species and kept the rainforest at bay.
An ecotonal habitat
Wet sclerophyll forests are particularly important as an ecotonal community between the rainforests and savanna ecosystems. As well as being home to a unique suite of species, the wet sclerophyll forests are often used by rainforest and woodland species at different times of the year. They are also home to some special species, the endangered northern or tropical bettong (Bettongia tropica), and the northern population of two other species of mammals restricted to this forest type - the yellow-bellied glider (Petaurus australia reginae) and the swamp rat (Rattus lutreolus lacus).
You can read all about the wet sclerophyll ecosystem and its plants and animals in:
Wet sclerophyll Image Gallery
Click on the images to view at a larger size.
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