We describe the population ecology of two tropical deciduous trees, Bombax ceiba leiocarpum A. Robyns and Brachychiton diversifolius R. Br., which are in high demand for Indigenous sculpture production in Arnhem Land, Australia. We monitored tagged populations of both species at two locations for 2 years to examine their reproduction, growth, and survival rates and their response to harvest. Both species have similar life histories: they reproduce during the dry season (June-November) producing a high seed load, seed predation was high, seeds did not survive in the soil past the following wet season to form a seed bank, and germination rates were low and variable for both species. Average annual circumference growth rates were 1.07 cm year-1 for B. ceiba and 0.98 cm year-1 for B. diversifolius, with most of the growth occurring during the early wet season. Most (65-88 %) of the harvested B. ceiba and B. diversifolius stems coppiced. Coppice and stem size class were the main factors influencing tree growth rates with coppice stems growing up to six times faster than similar sized non-coppice stems. The survival of B. ceiba and B. diversifolius stems was size class dependent and affected by local site factors (e.g. fire and other disturbances) so that the smaller size classes had a low probability of survival. Given the resprouting potential of both species, their wild harvest is likely to have only minimal local impact on wild populations. However, further population modelling is required to determine whether the small and disjunct B. ceiba populations can sustain harvesting at current levels.
Koenig, J., & Griffiths, A. (2012). The Population Ecology of Two Tropical Trees, Brachychiton diversifolius (Malvaceae) and Bombax ceiba (Bombaceae), Harvested by Indigenous Woodcarvers in Arnhem Land, Australia. Journal of Environmental Management, 50(4), 555-565. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-012-9911-9