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The Forest Practices Authority

A summary of the approach to the conservation of biodiversity in areas covered by the Tasmanian forest practices system

Tasmania's forests are highly valued for their unique biodiversity, and Tasmania has a complex legislative and policy framework that delivers a variety of mechanisms to conserve this biodiversity. The mechanisms include the establishment of an extensive reserve network and complementary management actions for biodiversity outside of reserves.

The Tasmanian forest practices system contributes to the conservation of biodiversity in areas outside of reserves by delivering management actions for activities covered by the Tasmanian Forest Practices Act 1985. The primary objective for biodiversity conservation in areas covered by the forest practices system is:
To maintain biodiversity values, across multiple spatial and temporal scales, through sustainable forest management. (Biodiversity Expert Review Panel report)

The FPA biodiversity program works towards this objective by following an adaptive management framework and undertaking the following key tasks: 

  • conducting research
  • developing planning processes and planning tools
  • training industry personnel
  • providing advice on proposed harvest operations
  • monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of management strategies.

Research

FPA specialists carry out research, often in collaboration with other researchers including university students, in order to develop new planning tools and management prescriptions as required, and to ensure that forest practices are implemented and meet their objectives. These research and monitoring programs provide for the development and continual improvement of management actions.

The results of these projects are provided in reports and scientific publications and are presented at international and national conferences of professional associations as well as local groups within Tasmania. See the publications page.

More details are available on the research page.

FPA researchers surveying tree hollows in eucalypt forests.

Planning processes and planning tools

In order to achieve the biodiversity objective of the forest practices system, a number of planning processes and planning tools developed by the FPA (and others) deliver a range of management strategies. Some of the key management strategies designed to help maintain biodiversity include:

The main policy instrument that addresses the management of biodiversity in areas covered by the forest practices system is the Forest Practices Code. The code provides some specific prescriptions that will help maintain biodiversity (e.g. streamside reserves) and is legally enforceable under the Forest Practices Act 1985.

In addition to the code, other management strategies and planning processes and planning tools are developed and delivered by the FPA biodiversity program to help forest planners in the identification of biodiversity values and issues, and to help with decisions on actions required. The range of planning tools available include:

  • biodiversity evaluation flow diagram
  • biodiversity evaluation sheet
  • Forest Botany Manual
  • Plant identification kit
  • Flowering times of Tasmanian orchids
  • Biodiversity Values Database
  • Habitat Context Assessment Tool
  • Threatened Fauna Adviser
  • fauna technical notes
  • flora technical notes
  • planning guideline 2008/1
  • threatened native vegetation community information sheets
  • Planning for threatened species or community information sheet
  • treefern management information.
These planning tools apply across all tenures in Tasmania and are mainly applied at the individual operation or coupe scale. However, there are some planning tools for strategic landscape-level (i.e. multiple coupes) planning and more work is being carried out in this area. Many of the management actions delivered by the system for biodiversity values are provided on the assumption that the elements of other policies related to biodiversity which are currently used for strategic and landscape planning (e.g. the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement, Forestry Tasmania's MDC System, forest management plans), are applied and that there will be successful native vegetation regeneration post-harvest.

A permanent native forest estate

The Tasmanian government's Permanent Native Forest Estate Policy is the key policy tool which determines state-wide retention levels for forest communities. The aim of the policy is to maintain a permanent native forest estate to ensure that a forest resource is maintained for all its values, including biodiversity values. The FPA processes applications to convert native vegetation to plantations and non-forest land use. Only applications in accordance with the policy are approved. For more information, see the permanent native forest estate.

Left: Grassy Eucalyptus globulus forest occurs predominantly in coastal areas of eastern Tasmania.

Native vegetation communities

Tasmania's forests contain a wide diversity of native plant communities reflecting the variety of environments found in the state. Forest communities range from the dry eucalypt forests and woodlands in the east of the state to the tall wet forests found in the higher rainfall areas in the west of the state. Native non-forest vegetation (e.g. moorland, heath, wetland and native grassland) may be associated with native forests (and sometimes plantations).

Threatened native vegetation communities include plant communities that are naturally rare and communities that were once more widespread but are now significantly depleted because of clearing over the last two hundred years. Threatened communities, both forest and non-forest, are listed on the Tasmanian Nature Conservation Act 2002 and their protection is achieved through the Tasmanian Permanent Native Forest Estate Policy, the Nature Conservation Act 2002 and the Forest Practices Act 1985. These policies mean that some communities cannot be harvested, while others can be harvested but cannot be converted to agriculture or plantation.

Further information on threatened vegetation communities can be found in the FPA Forest Botany Manual and FPA Threatened native vegetation community information sheets. Information on the management of relict rainforest can be found in FPA Flora Technical Note 4 and in Relict rainforest in eastern Tasmania (Neyland 1991).
Eucalyptus regnans forest with some trees recorded over 90m (the tallest species of hardwood in the world). Found on deep fertile soils in high-rainfall areas.
Simsons stag beetle is found in the wet forests of north-eastern Tasmania.

Threatened and priority species

Despite Tasmania's extensive reserve system, our state is no different to other parts of Australia in having a long list of species (both flora and fauna) whose populations are declining due to human impacts and other threatening processes. Threatened species are those species listed as threatened on the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 and/or the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Examples include the endangered Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, Aquila audax, the endemic and vulnerable Simsons stag beetle, Hoplogonus simsoni, found in the north-east of the state, the beautiful, rare, spiny bossiaea, Bossiaea obcordata, and the endangered, spiky anchorplant, Discaria pubescens.

Priority species were defined under the Regional Forest Agreement (Attachment 2) as ones that require consideration in areas covered by the Tasmanian forest practices system. Most priority species are those listed on threatened species legislation, but some are not included on any legislation (e.g. cave fauna, hollow-dependent species).


Bossiaea obcordata is found in very dry sites within dry sclerophyll forest in the north-east and on the east coast of the state.
The Forest Practices Code outlines the mechanism for the conservation of threatened (and priority) species in areas covered by the forest practices system. Management prescriptions are based on existing information and are developed by the Forest Practices Authority and DPIPWE Threatened Species Section following the Agreed procedures. Stakeholders are also involved when developing management prescriptions to ensure the final agreed prescriptions are clear, practical and can be implemented.

A range of strategies are prescribed for threatened and priority species management, many of which involve the retention of key habitat. The management prescriptions for fauna are delivered via the Threatened Fauna Adviser and for flora through the Forest Botany Manual. Additional information is also provided for some species through a series of flora and fauna technical notes which provide detailed guidance, for example on how to search for wedge-tailed eagle nests.

Freshwater systems (in-stream and riparian habitats)

Tasmania has an abundance of freshwater streams, rivers and lakes which provide in-stream and riparian habitats important for a diverse range of flora and fauna species. Riparian vegetation refers to river or lake bank vegetation.

The Forest Practices Code prescribes a number of management actions for the protection of in-stream and riparian habitats. These prescriptions include protection of streamside areas (with the level of protection varying with stream order), guidelines on constructing stream crossings, and special prescriptions in areas where threatened aquatic species are found.
Pristine stream surrounded by riparian vegetation. Photo by Ryan Burrows.

Structural elements

Mature and oldgrowth forest can provide important structural elements, including tree hollows and coarse woody debris (CWD). Tree hollows are holes or cavities in trees that provide important shelter and breeding sites for many animals. CWD includes material on the forest floor such as dead branches and whole fallen trees, standing dead trees (stags) and stumps. CWD provides the nutrients for the regeneration of many plant species and serves as microhabitat for many species of flora and fauna.

The Tasmanian Forest Practices Code and associated planning tools(technical note 7 on wildlife habitat clumps) and other information booklets (tree hollows in Tasmania and coarse woody debris conservation management)  deliver a number of measures to maintain such features in areas covered by the Tasmanian forest practices system. These measures generally involve the retention of mature or oldgrowth areas, due to the time frames involved with forming these important structural elements.

Pests and diseases

Flora and fauna values in many forest and scrub communities can be adversely affected by the introduction of disease and exotic plants.  The Forest Practices Code and Forest Botany Manual give guidelines to reduce the risk of weeds and disease being introduced through forestry operations. These actions include cleaning equipment before moving into a new area, buffering sensitive areas and applying specific prescriptions such as regeneration or plantation establishment treatments. Quarrying, roading and road use are generally of more concern than logging and regeneration activities.

Weed species can colonise disturbed sites associated with forestry operations, particularly when operations are close to agricultural land. Some weed species (e.g. thistles) decrease in abundance as understories re-establish in the regenerating forest.  Other weed species are more persistent in forest - including species with seeds that remain viable for a long time (e.g. gorse and broom) and species that are capable of vegetative regeneration (e.g. blackberry).  Open sites, such as road verges, tracks, landings, quarries and bridge approaches, provide good environments for weeds to establish and persist.  Weeds can also take advantage of disturbance (including burns associated with forest management) to establish in areas of non-forest vegetation (e.g. moorlands and native grasslands).  Any infestation provides a launching pad, which allows the weed species to colonise other sites in the general area - through seeds dispersed by wind, birds, water movement, livestock or other land use (including road construction and use, and forestry operations). The required action for managing weeds depends on the circumstances, including characteristics of the weed species, and extent of infestation.  The DPIPWE website  gives details of the Tasmanian Weed Management Act 1999 and statutory weed management plans for declared weed species. 

 

A disturbed drainage line with extensive death of Sprengelia incarnata (susceptible) surrounded by healthy teatree and sedges (resistant). This is strong evidence of a Phytophthora infestation.
One example of an introduced disease that is taken into account in the planning of forest practices is Phytophthora cinnamomi (often called root rot fungus or cinnamon fungus). Phytophthora is an introduced pathogen that attacks the roots of many Australian plant species, including over 130 Tasmanian species.  Species vary greatly in their response to Phytophthora.  Some species (e.g. several eucalypt species) only show signs of disease in periods of drought or other stress, while others (e.g. banksias, grasstrees) die rapidly and entire populations can be destroyed. Plant species associated with open vegetation in moist, lowland environments - such as dry sclerophyll forest, scrub, heath and moorland - are most at risk from Phytophthora.  This includes many of Tasmania's threatened species. Phytophthora has been introduced to many areas by spores carried on vehicles and machinery, but other sources include the boots of people and the feet of native or exotic animals. Phytophthora is impossible to eradicate once established and can spread rapidly in surface run-off and groundwater percolation.  The risk of spreading Phytophthora can be reduced by machinery hygiene, use of Phytophthora-free material in road construction, and attention to infrastructure planning. Over sixty Phytophthora Management Areas have been delineated, being areas (mainly catchments on State forest) identified for their ability to impede the spread of Phytophthora to susceptible areas/communities. It is advised that forestry operations occurring in these areas adopt specified hygiene measures to reduce the risk of introducing or spreading Phytophthora. More information is in Flora Technical Note 8.

Training

FPA biodiversity staff and specialists from other organisations (University of Tasmania, Threatened Species Section, DPIPWE, Forestry Tasmania) provide training to help forest planners implement the biodiversity prescriptions. This training includes general courses that provide accreditation for specific work within the industry, and voluntary training courses on new planning tools, research programs or species ecology.

Biodiversity training for Forest Practices Officers includes a one day introductory Fauna Course I and Forest Botany course I as pre-requisites, and a biodiversity module as part of the Forest Practices Officer course itself. After completing this training Forest Practices Officers have an:

  • understanding of biodiversity values covered by the forest practices system
  • understanding of the legislation, policy and inter-departmental agreements relevant for biodiversity conservation via the forest practices system
  • knowledge of the requirements of the Tasmanian Forest Practices Code and supporting policy, as it relates to biodiversity management and conservation
  • ability to access and appropriately utilise information from databases on species distribution, communities and biodiversity-related issues
  • understanding of the procedures to assess habitat suitability for forest-dependant threatened or priority species at a site using planning tools and reference material
  • understanding of appropriate methods to evaluate biodiversity in a proposed operational area -  including use of appropriate ground survey techniques, planning tools and databases
  • understanding of how to use planning tools to identify forest communities
  • ability to complete biodiversity evaluation sheets and follow processes to an accepted standard
  • understanding of how to use planning tools to identify forest communities.

More advanced training for Forest Practices Officers is provided at the FPA Fauna Course IIand FPA Forest Botany Course II. Graduates of these courses have:

  • a detailed understanding of species of high conservation significance and their habitats (including threatened fauna) in Tasmania's forested landscapes
  • an understanding of the impacts to species of high conservation significance that are likely to occur at different temporal and spatial scales either through existing or substantially altered forest management regimes
  • an understanding of legislation, policy and processes that specifically relate to species of high conservation significance in areas covered by the forest practices system in Tasmania
  • experience in the use of databases and planning tools used in the conservation management of species of high conservation significance in areas covered by the forest practices system
  • a good understanding of the Forest Practices Code provisions (including Threatened Fauna Adviser recommendations) that relate to species of high conservation significance in areas covered by the forest practices system.

Field days are also run, often in collaboration with DPIPWE staff,  to train planners in field survey techniques, species and habitat identification and the implementation of recommended management actions.
FPA staff running a course for Forest Practices Officers on how to use the Forest botany manual.

Monitoring

The Forest Practices Authority is responsible for monitoring the implementation of, and compliance with, the provisions of the Forest Practices Code and associated policy and planning tools.

Certificates of compliance report on biodiversity outcomes within FPP areas. Independent assessments of a sample of coupes by FPA Compliance Program staff evaluate the outcomes of planning and on-ground actions. The results of compliance audits are reported in the FPA annual report.

Research into the effectiveness of management prescriptions (i.e. effectiveness monitoring) is also conducted for a number of management prescriptions. The results of research and monitoring are used to update and revise management tools to ensure we continue striving towards meeting our biodiversity objective.

Content last modified July 23, 2012, 12:02 pm