Fast forest facts

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The following forest facts are drawn from Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018, and are generally based on data up to or as of 2016.​

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Type and extent of Australia's forests​​

​​Total forest area​​

  • Australia has 134 million hectares of forest, which is:
    • 17% of Australia's land area
    • about 3% of the world's forest area 
    • the seventh largest reported forest area of any country.
  • Australia's forests can be divided into three categories: 
    • 'Native forest' covering 132 million hectares 
    • 'Commercial plantation' covering 1.95 million hectares 
    • 'Other forest' covering 0.47 million hectares.

Native forest area

  • Australia's 132 million hectares of native forests are dominated by: 
    • eucalypt forests covering 101 million hectares (77% of the native forest area) and 
    • acacia forests covering 11 million hectares (8% of the native forest area). 
  • The area of rainforest is 3.6 million hectares (3% of the native forest area).
  • The area of woodland forest (20–50% crown cover) is 91.5 million hectares (69% of the native forest area).

Commercial plantation area

  • Australia's 1.95 million hectares of 'Commercial plantation' consist of both softwood species (1.01 million hectares, mostly pines) and hardwood species (0.92 million hectares, mostly eucalypts).​

Forest tenure

  • ​A total of 44 million hectares of Australia's forest​ is on public land, including nature conservation reserves (22 million hectares), multiple-use public forests (11 million hectares) and other Crown land (11 million hectares).​​
  • In addition, 42 million hectares of forest are on private land, and 47 million hectares of forest are on leasehold land.

For more information, see Indicator 1.1a of Criterion 1 in Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018.​​

Conservation of Australia's forests

Total area managed for biodiversity conservation

  • 46 million hectares (35% by area) of Australia's native forests are protected for biodiversity conservation or have biodiversity conservation as a specified management intent.
  • Protected areas include formal and informal nature conservation reserves, private land under a conservation covenant, and other areas on Crown land that are managed for protection of biodiversity.

Area where nature conservation is the primary management intent

  • 34 million hectares (26% by area)​ of Australia's native forest area is in Australia's National Reserve System through having 'nature conservation' as its primary management intent.

For more information, see Indicator 1.1c of Criterion 1 in Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018.​

Forest-dwelling native species in Australia

Forest-dwelling native species​ 

Forest-dwelling native species are those that may use forests for at least part of their lifecycle.

Australia's national list of forest-dwelling species includes: 

  • 2,486 vertebrate animal species, and 
  • 16,836 vascular plant species.

Forest-dependent native species 

Forest-dependent native species are those that require a forest habitat for at least part of their lifecycle, and could not survive or reproduce without it.

  • Of the 2,486 species listed as forest-dwelling vertebrate animal species, 1,119 are forest-dependent.

Threatened forest-dwelling species

A total of 1,420 forest-dwelling plant and animal species are listed as threatened species under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, comprising;

  • 307 vertebrate animal species
  • 38 invertebrate animal species
  • 1074 vascular plant species
  • 1 non-vascular plant species.​

During the period of 2013–16, the national list of threatened species had

  • 68 forest-dwelling species added, and 
  • 77 forest-dwelling species re​moved.​

For more information, see Indicator 1.2a and Indicator 1.2b of Criterion 1 in Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018.​

Fire in Australia's forests

Fire is a major component of the ecology of most Australian forests, particularly eucalypt forests.

​Total area of forest burnt

  • 55 million hectares (41% by area) of Australia's forests were burnt by fire one or more times during the period 2011–12 to 2015–16.
  • Large areas of forest, especially in northern Australia, were burnt in more than one year of this five-year period.​

Cumulative area of fire in forest

  • 106 million hectares is the cumulative area of fire in forest during the period 2011–12 to 2015–16.
  • The cumulative area of fire in forest is the sum of the forest fire area for each year of the five-year period of 2011–12 to 2015–16.​
  • Of the cumulative area of fire in forests, 69% were unplanned fires (wildfires).

For more information, see Indicator 3.1b of Criterion 3 in Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018.

Carbon in Australia's forests

​Total stock of carbon in Australia's forest

  • 21,949 million tonnes of carbon were stored in Australia's forests at the end of June 2016, of which:
    • 18,668 million tonnes (85%) were stored in non-production native forests
    • 3,009 million tonnes (14%) were stored in production native forests
    • 258 million tonnes (1%) were stored in plantations.
  • Total carbon stocks in Australia's forests increased by 0.6% over the period 2011–16.
  • Of the 21,949 million tonnes of carbon stored in Australia's forests at the end of June 2016:
    • 7,838 million tonnes (36%) were in above-ground biomass
    • 14,110 million tonnes (64%) were in below-ground biomass.

Carbon in harvested wood and wood products

​Carbon from forests is also stored in wood products.

  • 94 million tonnes of carbon were present in wood and ​wood products in use at the end of June 2016.
  • 50 million tonnes of carbon were present in wood and wood products in landfill at the end of June 2016.​​

​ For more information, see Indicator 5.1a of Criterion 5 in Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018.​

Forests available for wood production in Australia

Commercial plantations

  • The area of commercial plantations in 2014–15 was 1.95 million hectares
  • The area of commercial plantations increased from 1990 to 2010, but reduced by 44 thousand hectares (2%) between 2010–11 and 2014–15.​
  • Australia's commercial plantations are mostly located in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.

Native forests

  • The area of native forest that was available and suitable for commercial wood production in 2015–16 was 28.1 million hectares
  • Of this area: 
    • 6.3 million hectares was in multiple-use public native forests
    • 21.8 million hectares was in leasehold and private forests.
  • Australia's native forest timber and wood-based products are mostly sourced from multiple-use public forests in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. 

For more information, see Indicator 2.1a and Indicator 2.1b of Criterion 2 in Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018.​

Wood production in Australia's forests

Commercial plantations

  • 86% of the total volume of logs harvested in Australia was from commercial plantations​ in 2015-16.
  • Of this volume:
    • 62% was plantation softwood logs (both sawlogs and pulplogs)
    • 38% was plantation hardwood logs (mostly pulplogs).
  • The volume of logs harvested from commercial plantations increased by 30% over the period 2010–11 to 2015-16.

Native forests

  • 14% of the total volume of logs harvested in Australia was from native forests in 2015–16.
  • Of this volume:
    • 54% was native forest sawlogs
    • 46% was native forest pulplogs.
  • The volume of logs harvested from native forests declined by 37% over the period 2011–12 to 2015–16.
  • Native forest sawlog harvest levels were below sustainable yield levels by 23% for the period 2011–12 to 2015–16.
  • The total area harvested in multiple-use public native forests in 2015–16 was 73,207 hectares. This was:
    • 1.5% of the net harvestable area of public native forest
    • 0.75% of the total area of multiple-use public native forest, and
    • 0.06% of Australia's total area of native forest.

Total value of wood production

In 2015–16:​

  • The value of logs harvested from native forests and commercial plantations was $2.3 billion. This was an increase of 22%, from $1.9 billion in 2010–11.​
  • The value of production of wood products industries (total industry turnover, or sales and service income) was $23.7 billion. This was a decrease of 2%, from $24.0 billion in 2010–11.
  • The value added by the forest and wood products industries was $8.6 billion, representing a contribution to Australia’s gross domestic product of 0.52%. In 2010–11 the value added was $8.3 billion, a contribution of 0.59%.​
  • The total value of wood product imports was $5.5 billion, while the total value of wood product exports was $3.1 billion. Australia continues to be a net importer of wood and wood products.​​​​​​​​

For more information, see Indicators 2.1a, 2.1b, and 2.1c of Criterion 2, and Indicators 6.1a and 6.1d of Criterion 6, in Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018. ​

Employment in Australian forest industries

  • Total national direct employment in the forest sector was 51,983 persons in 2016, a 24% decrease from 2011.
  • The key drivers for this decrease were consolidation of processing into larger facilities with higher labour efficiencies, and restructuring of the sector.
  • In 2016, the forest and wood products industries directly employed 1,099 Indigenous people, while an estimated 337 Indigenous people were employed in conservation or park operation roles in areas with forested conservation reserves.​

For more information, see Indicator 6.5a of Criterion 6 in Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018.​​

Non-wood forest products

  • Australia produces a wide range of non-wood forest products derived from forest fauna, flora and fungi, and many non-wood forest products supply commercial domestic and export markets.
  • High-value non-wood forest products include wildflowers, seed, honey, and aromatic products derived from tea-tree and sandalwood.
  • Beekeeping is one of the largest non-wood forest product industries. Over the period 2011–16:
    • an annual average of 20.8 thousand tonnes of honey was produced, much of which was derived from forested lands
    • the annual volume of honey production declined by 17%
    • the gross annual value of honey production increased by 39%, to $110 million.​
For more information, see Indicator 2.1d of Criterion 2​ and Indicator 6.1b of Criterion 6 in Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018.

Indigenous forest area, heritage, and employment

  • ​The Indigenous forest estate (the area of forest over which Indigenous people and communities have ownership, management, or right of access and use) is a total of 70 million hectares of forest (52% of Australia’s forests), almost all of which is native forest.​
  • Indigenous heritage sites are widespread across Australia’s forests, with an estimated 126 thousand registered Indigenous heritage sites within forest in 2016.
  • In 2016, the forest and wood products industries directly employed 1,099 Indigenous people, while an estimated 337 Indigenous people were employed in conservation or park operation roles in areas with forested conservation reserves.
For more information, see Indicators 6.4a, 6.4c, and 6.5d of Criterion 6 in Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018.​​​

Recreation and non-indigenous heritage

Recreation and tourism

  • Most forests in nature conservation reserves and multiple-use public forests in Australia are available to the general public for recreation or tourism purposes. 
  • ​An annual average of 4.2 million visitors visited major forested tourism regions for bushwalking in the period 2011–12 to 2015–16.

Non-Indigenous heritage​​

  • ​​​In 2016, 11.0 million hectares of forest was on non-Indigenous heritage-listed sites. 
  • This was an increase of 3.7 million hectares since 2011, mainly due to the registration of new heritage places​.​
For more information, see Indicator 6.3b and Indicator 6.4b of Criterion 6 in Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018.​

Forest certification in Australia

  • About 8.9 million hectares of native forests and plantations were certified for forest management under either the Responsible Wood Certification Scheme or the Forest Stewardship Council scheme at June 2018. Some forests and plantations were certified under both schemes.

For more information, see Indicator 7.1b of Criterion 7 in Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018.​

Forest management plans

  • Australia’s public native forests, including those in nature conservation reserves and those available for wood production, are governed and managed under state or territory regulatory frameworks and management plans.
  • As at 2016, 43 million hectares (32% of Australia’s forests) were covered by management plans relating to their conservation and sustainable management.
  • This area includes 19 million hectares of forest in the National Reserve System (57% of the area of forest in the National Reserve System).
For more information, see Indicator 7.1a of Criterion 7 in Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018.​

Research and development

  • Total expenditure on research and development in the forest and wood products sector declined from $144 million in 2007-08 to $86 million in 2013–14, as reported by businesses to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  • The estimated number of researchers and technicians involved in research and development in forestry and forest products declined from 733 in 2008, to 455 in 2011, and to 276 in 2013.
For more information, see Indicator 6.2b of Criterion 6 in Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018.​
Last reviewed:
29 Aug 2019