The area of land available for commercial timber production in Australia has been estimated by foresters to be 19,500,000 acres, or only about 1 per cent of the area of the continent. The area of state forests now reserved in perpetuity approximates this acreage, but a considerable portion is not suited for timber production. Hence there is need for further additions to the reserved area as well as need for impoving forest conditions on most tracts. The idea of conserving timber is relatively new to most Australians, and in many localities forest-land destruction continues, particularly through bush fires.
The principal commercial forests are found in the east and southeast coastal regions, including Tasmania, and in the extreme southwest corner of the continent between Perth and Albany. The southern forest regions have a rainfall of 30 or more inches annually, and those of tropical Queensland have twice that amount. Although most of the best forests are on the ocean side of the Eastern Highlands in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria, important stands of smaller timber are available on the western flanks of the ranges. Some trees of commercial significance are found along the banks of the Murray and its tributaries. Vast acreages of stunted trees are scattered over the northern coastal districts and over much of the less dry interior. This timber serves many valuable purposes, such as fuel, fence posts, and rough building material.
The scarcity of softwoods, a condition characteristic of the southern hemisphere generally, comprises one of Australia's major forest problems. Probably 90 per cent of the native timber of the Commonwealth consists of hardwoods, chiefly eucalyptus.
Australia's principal native softwoods include hoop, bunya, and kauri pines of the northeast coast, cypress pine of the western slopes of the Eastern Highlands, and the Huon, King William, and celery top pines of Tasmania. Hoop and bunya pine supply valuable timber for plywood, veneers, and cabinet work.
In Tasmania, King William pine (Athrotaxis), Huon pine (Da- crydium), and celery top pine (Phyllocladus) are scattered over much of the moist western uplands. All are slow-growing, but they produce high-grade timber. Cypress pines occur in many parts of Australia, but the largest compact stands occur in the 20- to 30-inch rainfall belt of central New South Wales and south central Queensland. The timber is resistant to termites, and as a consequence it is valuable in many kinds of construction work.