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Salvage Logging in the Mountain Ash Eucalypt Forests

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Salvage Logging on the Black Range

D.B. LINDENMAYER AND K. OUGH

Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 2000, Australia,

email davidl@cres.anu.edu.au

Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Department of Sustainability and Environment, 123 Brown Street, Heidelberg,

Victoria, 3084 Australia

 Abstract:  The two major forms of disturbance in the mountain ash eucalypt forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria (southeastern Australia) are clear-fell logging and unplanned wildfires. Since the 1930s wildfire has been followed by intensive and extensive salvage-logging operations, which may proceed for many years after a wildfire has occurred. Although applied widely, the potential effects of salvage logging on native flora and fauna have been poorly studied. Our data indicate that the abundance of large trees with hollows is significantly reduced in forests subject to salvage harvesting. This has implications for the persistence of an array of such cavity-using vertebrates as the endangered arboreal marsupial, Leadbeater’s possum (Gymnobelidues leadbeateri ). Salvage logging also reduces the prevalence of multi-aged mountain ash forests—places that typically support the highest diversity of arboreal marsupials and forest birds. Limited research has been conducted on the effects of salvage logging on plants; thus, we constructed hypotheses about potential impacts for further testing based on known responses to clear-fell logging and key life history attributes. We predict many species, such as vegetatively resprouting tree ferns, will decline, as they do after clearfelling. We also suggest that seed regenerators, which typically regenerate well after fire or conventional clear-felling, will decline after salvage logging because the stimulation for germination ( fire) takes place prior to mechanical disturbance (logging). Understory plant communities in salvage-logged areas will be dominated by a smaller suite of species, and those that are wind dispersed, have viable soil-stored seed remaining after salvage logging, or have deep rhizomes are likely to be advantaged. We recommend the following improvements to salvage-logging policies that may better incorporate conservation needs in Victorian mountain ash forests: (1) exemption of salvage logging from some areas (e.g., old-growth stands and places subject to only partial stand damage); (2) increased retention of biological legacies on burned areas through variations in the intensity of salvage logging; and (3) reduction in the levels of physical disturbance on salvage-logged areas, especially through limited seedbed preparation and mechanical disturbance.