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IUFRO The Advocate for Forest Science.
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Welcome to this new Working Party which we hope will provide a forum for the many researchers and technical managers growing Australian Acacias around the world. As indicated by our national affiliations (Australia, Malaysia and Vietnam) the Co-ordinators are primarily concerned with industrial tropical acacias, but we warmly welcome those of you working on temperate species and also the many multi-purpose arid zone taxa which have utility on rural economies around the world.
There are no more versatile trees than Australian Acacias. There are over 1000 species, a third of which grow to 5m or more and have potential for human use (Griffin et al 2011). Major uses range from mainstream industrial fibre, solid wood and tannin production through a suite of multi-purpose uses including fuelwood and poles, fodder and food, site amelioration and even floristry and perfume production. The relatively minimal silvicultural inputs, fast growth rate and ability to fix nitrogen make them suitable candidates for biomass energy generation and carbon fixation where policy settings are favourable.
Apart from A.mearnsii in South Africa and Brazil, large scale monoculture planting of Acacia is very recent. A.mangium was only introduced from Australia to Malaysia in the 1960s and there are now around 2 Million ha. of plantations of this species, its hybrid with A.auriculiformis and the related species A.crassicarpa. Optimal silvicultural regimes for long term sustainability of these plantations remain to be demonstrated. Problems include fungal diseases and wind stability and the potential for weediness needs to be understood and managed in some environments. Domestication is proceeding fast in some countries but in general genetic improvement is not as advanced as in eucalyptus. There are many technical challenges and opportunities associated with the reproductive biology. Hybridisation and polyploid breeding are active research fronts. Understanding of molecular genetics is increasing but as yet there is no Acacia Genome project. Clearly such commercially important taxa warrant such this investment and perhaps our new WP will be able to encourage some action.
There is a clear need for continued R&D in both growing and breeding of Acacias. We hope that the new WP will provide an opportunity for all scientists to share knowledge and discuss priorities for the future. We hope to hold our first meeting in Vietnam in 2014 and will aim to organise the program in a way which facilitates cross discipline discussions (easy to say and difficult to do but we will try!).
Reference: Griffin AR, Midgley SJ, Bush D, Cunningham PJ, Rinaudo AT (2011) Global uses of Australian acacias—recent trends and future prospects. Divers Distrib 17: 837–847