Fast-growing eucalypts boost plantation prospects
Australia only has about 60,000 hectares of eucalypt plantations. A number of countries have many more. Recent studies into the growth of eucalypts in plantations show enormous potential for rapid timber production, with a change to more intensive management and selective tree breeding.
Demise of the desert mammals
Australia's dry outback is often described as 'unchanging' and 'timeless', but in fact European occupation has wrought many irreversible changes to the region, including the greatest degree of extinction of the native mammals anywhere in this country.
Research has recently identified a new potential menace to the ecosystem of our arid interior. It is a tree which seems ideal for planting in the Centre. The Athel tree (Tamarix aphylla) was imported into Australia and grown as shade trees in the Northern Territory and arid and semi arid areas of other States. Now they are spreading and displacing the native trees, causing unwanted changes in the ecology of the river systems.
Oceans, atmosphere, and climate prediction
Clues to predicting climate lie in understanding the interaction between air and sea in the warm waters to the north of Australia. For five years, Australian scientists have been working in the international Tropical Oceans-Global Atmosphere program (TOGA) to understand what causes an El Nino-South Oscillation (ENSO) event and how greenhouse gases effect ENSO.
Bacteria - why we should eat them
We expect the food we eat to be clean and largely bacteria free, but research suggests that we might be better off if some of our food contained more bacteria. Being colonised with the right sort of bacteria is virtually a necessity for a healthy life. A new milk has been developed containing two bacteria which help the digestion of milk and also discourage harmful bacteria.
Going for green
A series of computer controlled advisory signs along a 10 kilometre stretch of Canterbury Road in Melbourne displays information about traffic density and the length of road ahead that will have green traffic signals if the vehicle travels at the recommended speed. The ADVISE project is part of a broader programme set up to examine alternative ways of conserving energy used by passenger vehicles.
Insects outwit tree?
Some plants switch on a chemical defence when insects attack them, but some insects are thought to sabotage an induced defence in the plant. Experiments are being carried out in which leaf-cutting larvae of eucalypts, their behaviour and growth, and the plant reaction, if any, is being studied.
What - no deserts?
Although many parts of central Australia can be defined as arid, it has long been believed that we have no 'true' deserts. This view is now being questioned following an expedition from Adelaide to Darwin which sampled flora along the way. The southern Lake Eyre region, containing plants with features suggestive of desert living, is probably our patch of true desert.