Australian acacia species

Acacia, commonly known as wattle, is Australia’s largest genus of flowering plants, with almost 1000 species present in Australia. Acacia forests also occur in all states and territories covering  a total of 9.8 million hectares.

Despite the clear importance of Australian acacia species to our environment, culture and industry, there are currently no coordinated activities being undertaken specifically for the protection of acacia from biosecurity threats.

Acacias are an iconic and functional element of the Australian landscape, they are of significant environmental and cultural value to Australia because the plants of this genus provide vital ecosystem services, cultural functions and production outputs.

Ecoystem services

Acacia species provide cover to smaller trees and shrubs, habitat for native animals and birds, act to stabilise soils and play an integral role in nutrient cycling through the fixing of nitrogen. These services are particularly important in arid and semi-arid regions of Australia where acacias dominate and few other species can fill these roles.

Cultural functions

Acacia seeds are an important traditional food source, eaten raw or ground into a flour for bread or porridge. A number of species are now grown commercially for the expanding wattleseed bushfood markets both domestically and for export. Traditional uses continue to extend to medicinal and functional purposes (used to make boomerangs, clubs, shelters).

Production outputs

Commercial acacia plantations are grown for the timber, nursery garden, perfume and cut flower industries. As of 2016-17 there were 31,600 ha of acacia plantations in Australia, predominately in the Northern Territory. Acacias are also a popular choice for rehabilitation of mine sites and degraded lands because they are a ‘pioneer’ species which regenerate quickly after disturbance.

The Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer within the Department of Agriculture has commissioned Plant Health Australia to develop an Environmental Risk Mitigation Plan for Australian Acacia Species.

This project builds on an Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper funded project to a draft Biosecurity Plan for Australian Acacia Species which highlighted the need to adopt a more involved approach which engages with the diverse stakeholder base to develop a suitable plan.

This risk mitigation plan will seek to address the biosecurity threats to acacias by investigating the biosecurity risks related to acacias and describing genuine options for involvement of stakeholders in biosecurity activities such as surveillance and response.

The key objectives of this project are to:

  • map and engage critical stakeholders for acacia biosecurity.
  • identify biosecurity threats and risks to acacia species in Australia through the finalisation of an environmental risk mitigation plan.
  • identify priority activities and/or projects that will specifically address acacia biosecurity risks.

Plant Health Australia will be consulting a range of stakeholders throughout project to better understand the complexities of the specific stakeholder-environment context. Based on information provided during these stakeholder consultations, recommendations will be developed to guide effective decisions regarding potential future investment in acacia biosecurity and environmental biosecurity more broadly.