Habitat

Wet Sclerophyll forests

What is a Wet Sclerophyll forest?

Wet Sclerophyll forest is also known as tall open-forest and is unique to Australia. It is a multi-storyed habitat, characterised by a tall, open tree canopy and an understorey of shrubs, fern and herbs. Many understorey plants are rainforest species or have close rainforest relatives. Moisture and soil are important characteristics of this habitat to maintain the growth of the tall eucalypts. The wet sclerophyll forest is a complex living system, yet this whole system is a dynamically balanced natural environment if not interrupted.

 

While eucalypts tower over other forest trees, competition is fierce as young gums battle for sunlight with pioneering rainforest species. Tall Eucalypts dominate the canopy and include blue gums, mahoganies, peppermints and green-leaved ashes. Wet sclerophyll forests are highly combustible and susceptible to fire,

Wet sclerophyll forests have the following features:

 

  • Tall eucalypt trees
  • Lowlight
  • Moisture
  • Vines
  • Mid-storey trees
  • Dense ferny understorey and deep, damp litter.

Canopy (Top-storey)

High forest canopy that produces a high volume of leaves. Top-storey fauna are flyers or climbers such as Koalas, Brushtail possums, Fruit bats and variety of bird species.

Branch level

Below the canopy and where many hollows and comfortable forks exist making comfortable homes for many species.

Mid-storey

The clear mid-storey provides arboreal animals with lots of different food sources such as nectar, flowers, leaves and fruits of the canopy and utilise hollows and forks as shelter.

Height above ground level provides protection from many predators, but no assurance from is monitor lizards and birds of prey, such as falcons, goshawks, eagles and large owls.

Understorey

The understory contains dense-growing shrubs and grasses, sheltered from the sun and wind and comprises a deep litter layer over moist mineral soil.

This is the place small herbivores call home to consume fallen fruit, seeds, leaves and fungi in the damp litter. Many invertebrates live by tunnelling and foraging in the litter; these provide a food source for both vertebrates and predatory invertebrates.

Where are they located?

Wet sclerophyll forest occurs along the ranges of the east coast, as well as in Tasmania and south Western Australia. The wet sclerophyll forests occur on moderately fertile soils in areas of high rainfall, often between open-eucalypt forest and rainforest.

Wildlife of wet sclerophyll forests

Wet Schelophyll forests support many different types of native, threatened animal and plant species. There are also other species that call this habitat home, due to its diverse abundance of resources. The copious amount of fallen wood and leaf litter provide food, habitat and shelter for a complex invertebrate ground fauna, while insects, mites and spiders provide a bountiful resource for insectivorous birds. Mammals include possums, gliders, potoroos and pademelons.

 

Several of the 7 Ark species selected for this project, are now absent from this habitat. Establishing their contribution to ecology in this capacity would be a world first with positive outcomes. The 3 main threats confronting mammals of wet sclerophyll forests include feral pests, fire and habitat destruction.

Habitat threats
  1. Weeds and other invasive species will have an impact on predation and competition for food for native species. An increase in understorey shrubs (including lantana) can have a negative impact on native plant species

 

  1. Disease – some trees that suffer from disease will lose their leaves and branches and may also die. This has a negative impact many animal species that rely on large trees as their homes.

 

  1. Habitat clearing – habitat loss destroys many plant species and also removes the food and housing of animals that depend on trees and shrubs

 

  1. Fire – Hot fires may destroy fire-sensitive vegetation, food resources for animals; simplify vegetation structure; and burn relatively large areas.

 

Even low severity fires can remove habitat such as large hollow-bearing trees that provide essential resources for many animals.