Managing fire and biodiversity

Jan 25, 2012 by Sarah Chester
Forest underoing hazard reduction burning

A 23-year study of dry sclerophyll forests in south-eastern NSW has thrown new light on the role of fire in the landscape.

The study concluded that in its current form, hazard reduction burns will not have the same impact on understorey plant species in these forests as wildfire.

The study was originally established in 1985 by the then Forests NSW senior Bob Bridges and research forester Doug Binns and involved varying applied to logged and unlogged sites in dry sclerophyll forests.

Data has recently been considered by Industry & Investment NSW scientists Dr Trent Penman, Dr Rod Kavanagh, Roy Shiels and Ruth Allen, and Forests NSW senior ecologist Doug Binns.

These forests typically consist of multi-aged stands of eucalypts with an understorey dominated by hard-leafed shrubs, grasses and ferns.

Trent said, over time, there had been a decline in the number of understorey recorded and a shift in community structure that has occurred independently of the management regime.

“Overall, the above ground vegetation communities showed only minor responses to the prescribed fire and logging treatments.

“These changes are consistent with the expectations of the natural plant community dynamics with increasing time since wildfire,” he said.

Trent said dry sclerophyll forests have evolved with wildfire and have numerous strategies to cope with these disturbances. One of these is the storage of seeds within the soil to allow regeneration of the vegetation after a wildfire.

The study also examined the seed bank stored in the soil finding that logging increased the diversity and abundance of seedlings, while repeated prescribed burns had the opposite effect.

“The above ground vegetation communities showed only minor responses to management treatments, but these changes are more pronounced in the soil seed bank,” Trent said.

The results of the study suggest that where conservation of plant community diversity is the primary goal, management strategies are required that occasionally permit wildfire.

However, Trent said it was important to remember that this needs to be balanced with the need to protect valuable timber stands and, of course, life, property and assets on neighbouring properties.

Explore further: Measuring the height of the world's forests

Provided by New South Wales Government

4 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Forest logging increases risk of mega fires

Sep 12, 2011

Logging in Victoria’s mountain ash forests is increasing the risk of catastrophic wildfires, according to an expert from The Australian National University.

Measuring nectar from eucalypts

Jul 31, 2007

The effect of logging on canopy nectar production in tall forest trees has for the first time been investigated by NSW DPI researchers, with funding from the Honeybee Program of the Rural Industries Research and Development ...

Recommended for you

Measuring the height of the world's forests

52 minutes ago

If we know the height of the world's forests, then we can estimate how much carbon they store. That will improve our understanding of how forests interact with the atmosphere and their role in mitigating ...

Scientists probe leak risk from seabed CO2 stores

1 hour ago

A UK-led international research team has carried out the first experiment to recreate what would happen if CO2 started leaking after being stored deep under the sea floor. Their findings add weight to the ide ...

User comments : 0