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Conservation of mature-forest biodiversity in production forest landscapes

Grégoire Thauvin measures the diameter of a large rotting log as part of studies investigating the role of landscape context on forest biodiversity

In our forested landscapes, planning aims to reserve, maintain and develop sufficient mature forest to cater for the long-term needs of species dependent on mature forest. But how should we measure success?

A major research program in the Southern Forests Experimental Forest Landscape, anchored on Warra, is investigating this deceptively simple question. The project involves doctoral students and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tasmania, in addition to several Forestry Tasmania staff, and has received funding support from the Australian Research Council and Forest and Wood Products Australia. Research topics under investigation include the extent to which the viability of mature-forest habitat depends on the degree of modification of the surrounding landscape, whether the recolonisation of harvested areas by mature–forest specialists is made easier by proximity to mature forest, and whether there are thresholds of landscape-level modification beyond which mature-forest specialists may no longer persist.

The diversity and abundance of plants, birds and beetles is being measured in 28 patches of mature forest and 28 patches of older (>20 years old) silvicultural regeneration. These patches sample a landscape-level gradient of forest context, from near-natural areas in the west, to plantations and agriculture in the east We will use the data from these plots, in combination with GIS data and modelling tools, to explore how wildfire history and forestry combine to shape the landscape, the relationship of biodiversity to landscape context, and how to plan future management of forest landscapes.

Coarse woody debris (dead wood on the forest floor) provides habitat for many species of invertebrate and fungi. Early results from this project show that, for both mature forest and silvicultural regeneration, the current amount, size and decay state of coarse woody debris is mostly a legacy of wildfire impacts on the landscape prior to modern forestry. Our research is now testing the effects of these differences on the beetle fauna dependent on dead wood.

Dr Simon Grove

Dr Tim Wardlaw




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