Influence of scattered paddock trees on surface soil properties: A study of the Northern Tablelands of NSW


  • Brian Wilson

  • Brian Wilson is currently an ecologist with the New South Wales Department of Land and Water Conservation, Centre for Natural Resources (PO Box U245, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia. Telephone: +61-2 6773 5267, Fax: +61-2 6773 5288, Email: This project arose from concern regarding the status of scattered rural trees in the landscape of NSW and is one component of research to evaluate their ecological value.


Summary Surface soil conditions were assessed under three tree species on a property near Armidale on the Northern Tablelands of NSW. In both a stocked and adjacent destocked paddock, five trees each of three eucalypt species: Eucalyptus melliodora, Eucalyptus blakelyi and Eucalyptus nova-anglica, were selected. Soil samples were collected (depth 0–10 cm) along transects 20 m in length running from beneath the tree canopy progressively outwards into the open paddock. Six additional transects were also sampled outside the influence of the trees. Soil properties at a distance from the trees differed little between the stocked and destocked paddock with only a slight acidification in the stocked paddock. However, soil properties around the scattered trees showed considerable variation between stocked and destocked equivalents and most notably in a systematic pattern with distance from the trees themselves. For example, bulk density increased significantly, whereas soil pH, carbon, nitrogen and extractable phosphorus contents all decreased significantly with distance from the trees. However, stocking and camping had modified some of these soil properties. In the stocked paddock, the systematic change in nitrogen and phosphorus with distance from the trees was less clear and the degree of dispersion of the data was largest at the most heavily camped site. In this paddock, bulk density was also generally higher whereas pH, carbon and nitrogen contents were lower compared with the destocked equivalent. Extractable phosphorus content was also higher around the trees in the stocked paddock especially where camping activity was most intense. It is concluded that, although animal camping can modify their effects, scattered trees have a beneficial effect on soil properties and in this respect they have value in the grazing system from a soil conservation perspective.