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Salvage Logging and its ecological consequences

Below is an extract from the book 'Salvage Logging and Its Ecological Consequences', by David Lindenmayer, Philip Burton and Jerry Franklin. This extract is sourced from the Central Highlands Case study and is very relevant to the current salvage logging program that VicForests are currently planning for the fire affected areas as of last Friday.

As previously mentioned, any forms of forest management in the fire-affected areas need to be postponed until the findings of the Royal Commission are given. Salvage logging, along with other forms of mechanical or human-induced disturbance outside of emergency fire suppression measures (that being the current fire fighting effort) will alter and/or remove evidence for the Royal Commission to investigate.

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(From Lindenmayer D, Burton P, Franklin J (2008), Salvage Logging and its ecological consequences', CSIRO Publishing)

The impact of salvage logging in mountain ash forests shows the following effects:

- Significant reductions in the abundance and types of biological legacies, particularly large living and dead standing trees with hollows. This, in turn, has removed critical nesting and sheltering sites essential for the persistence of cavity-using vertebrates, such as the endangered arboreal marsupial Leadbeater's Possum.

- Reduction in the prevalence of multi-aged mountain ash forests, from estimated historical background levels of 30 percent to less than 7 percent currently. Multi-aged stands are important because they typically support the highest diversity of arboreal marsupials and are key habitat for some species of forest birds.

- Reductions in vegetatively-resprouting plants, such as soft tree fern and rough tree fern. Seed regenerators, which typically regenerate well after the fire, also are likely to decline after salvage logging because the stimulation for germination (fire) takes place prior to mechanical disturbance (logging).

- An increase in wind-dispersed plants and those that have deep rhizomes.

The results of various observational and other kinds of studies in mountain ash forests suggest that salvage logging has negative effects at a number of spatial values. First, landscape heterogeneity are reduced as stands with the potential to become multi-aged are converted to young stands of even-aged second growth. Second, patterns of within stand structural complexity are altered as living and dead standing trees are removed. Within these simplified stands, the composition of animal and plant assemblages is altered as functional groups decline or are completely lost. These impacts on biodiversity have been widespread, given the extensive and prolonged nature of salvage logging and have considerably exceeded the impacts of wildfire alone.

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