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Planning for biodiversity values in production forest in the Wielangta area

­Brad field trip with FPA

Brad Potts (UTAS) discusses the Forest Practices Plan with Tim Bull (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry), Vanessa Thompson (Senior Forest Planner, FT), and Tessa Bird (Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts).  (Photo: Fred Duncan)

Fred Duncan with FPA

Fred Duncan (right) discusses characteristics used to identify an orchid species with Vanessa Thompson (left) and Tessa Bird (centre). (Photo: Brad Potts)

­drop bear hunting

Collecting buds and fruit from the Eucalyptus in coupe WT019D whose taxonomic affinities remain unclear. (Photo: Tim Bull)


Fred Duncan
Forest Practices Authority

'Adaptive management' is a term used to describe how information from observation and research is incorporated into on-ground management, with prescriptions and practices changing or evolving in response to new information.  There are many instances where practices in Tasmania’s production forests have been modified through adaptive management.  At times, these changes have been at a coupe level, at other times at a landscape or regional level.  Changes can also occur at a policy or legislative level – an example is a current review of the Biodiversity Provisions of the Tasmanian Forest Practices Code, where an expert panel of scientists and practitioners have been assessing biodiversity management and regulation in forests in Tasmania and other Australian states.  Professor Brad Potts from the University of Tasmania has been providing advice on forest genetics issues to this panel.

Often the catalyst for adaptive management results from co-operative research and information-sharing by many stakeholders.  The rest of this article describes some coupe-level and landscape-level decisions in the Wielangta area, which have involved scientists and planners from the CRCF and UTAS, State government agencies (DPIW and Forest Practices Authority), Forestry Tasmania and independent scientists and observers.

Following the annual review of the FPA’s research program, a field day was organised by Fred Duncan (Manager of the FPA’s Biodiversity Program) to the Wielangta area to discuss on-ground implementation of a Forest Practices Plan for a partial logging operation in coupe WT019D (view a land tenure map of the Wielangta area, showing location of this coupe). Brad Potts attended and discussed the management of eucalypts of scientific and conservation interest.

A small eucalypt population of unclear taxonomic affinities had been located in the eastern part of the coupe by Brad Potts and Gay McKinnon (UTAS).  An adult plant and coppice regeneration were present that had morphology reminiscent of Eucalyptus cordata as well as the white gums (E. viminalis/rubida/dalrympleana).  This site has been excluded from the area proposed for logging.  A marsh adjacent to the coupe contains an outlying population of the Tasmanian endemic Eucalyptus urnigera –  the site can be viewed as a “stepping stone” between populations on Maria Island and dolerite mountains in the southern Midlands and Hobart areas (e.g., Mt Wellington and Quoin Mountain near Kempton).  Some hybrids between E. urnigera and other eucalypts (E. brookeriana or E. rodwayi) were also observed.  A buffer has been established to separate the eucalypts on the marsh from the operational area of the coupe. 

Planning for this coupe has also considered the occurrence of two threatened orchid species (Corunastylis nuda and Pterostylis atriola) – these species have been recorded from the coupe and adjacent reserved areas.  Many orchid species regenerate readily after disturbance (and the wildfires that occurred in this area in summer 2006/07 may have resulted in a flush of emergence of these species).  No additional prescriptions were needed to take account of the orchid species in the coupe – this is because of the form of logging proposed, and the occurrence of both species in reserves adjacent to the coupe.

Recent surveys have shown that large numbers of swift parrots (Lathamus discolor) – listed as an 'Endangered' species – may be breeding in the Wielangta area in summer 2008/09.  Foraging in blue gums (Eucalyptus globulus) and pre-breeding behaviour have been observed in WT019D, in nearby forest and elsewhere in the Wielangta area.  An assessment of the Wielangta area will be conducted this summer to determine use of different forest types and different tenures for foraging and breeding by swift parrots.  This will allow management of swift parrot habitat to be undertaken strategically, which, in turn, will allow the effects of different forms of forest management (reservation, wood production etc) to be considered at a landscape level.  An additional complexity is that swift parrots may use resources for foraging and breeding which may not occur on the same site. The results of this assessment, that will be funded by DPIW, Forestry Tasmania and the Forest Practices Authority, will be taken into account in land use decisions on public forest (including WT019D) and private forest in the Wielangta area.

Planning for forestry operations in WT019D has required assessment of biodiversity values and consideration of their management, taking into account information on habitats, ecology and effects of different forms of land use.  Planning for the coupe has resulted in changes to prescriptions and boundaries, and may change further after the swift parrot survey described above.  Planning at a landscape-level is an important part of forest management, as the location of resources, species and communities can change over time as a result of successional processes or disturbance.