Salvage logging could destroy habitat for vulnerable animals, expert warns

Dominic Giannini 28 January 2020 20
Greater Glider

An endangered Greater Glider. Photo: Pavel German.

One of Australia’s leading experts on landscape ecology and biodiversity has warned that salvage logging and bushfire clean-up may hinder the ability of animals and ecosystems to bounce back after the fire crisis.

Professor David Lindenmayer said that bushland can still provide a habitat for animals that have survived the blaze, and trees that may be removed during salvage operations have the potential to resprout after fires.

Professor Lindenmayer is an expert in landscape ecology, forestry management and conservation and biodiversity at the Australian National University (ANU). He says action must be taken to ensure the survival of local species.

“We should resist the temptation to clean up,” he told Region Media.

“It looks as though half the distribution of the southern populations of the Greater Glider has been extensively damaged, so there will be a big effect on that species.

“We are talking about numbers in the tens of thousands, and the impact of the bushfires can last many, many decades, with numbers continuing to decline, which is what happened after the 2009 Victoria fires.

“We are still seeing the impacts of that fire 10 years later.

“The Corroboree Frog and Alpine She-oak Skink have also been affected, so there is a range of species that are doing badly as a consequence of the fires.

“A lot of people think ‘oh look there is a dead tree, let’s clean it up’, when in fact many of these trees have the ability to resprout and recover.

“Salvage logging is a really negative thing to do. The fire wipes out habitats so animals have no food, they are left without shelter, and now we have salvage logging which occurs after these fires.”

Salvage logging in the aftermath of fires can further impact already threatened species by removing possible refuges, as feral animals and selective logging are already proving to be an existential threat to some animals.

Professor David Lindenmayer

Professor David Lindenmayer. Photo: ANU.

“You have the fire, which directly kills many animals, and then what happens is that after the fires you can have the effects of feral animals like possums, cats, horses and deer that can have really major impacts on ecosystems as well,” Professor Lindenmayer said.

“An example is horses in the high country. Those animals have hard hooves which have a big impact on very fire-sensitive soils, native fish, frogs and reptiles.

“We should not be salvage logging and we should be involved in controlling these feral animals.”

The forest industry and CFMMEU have already called for the selective logging of national parks to reduce fuel loads, a proposal that’s been rejected by conservation experts.

Professor Lindenmayer says unburnt vegetation must be protected at all costs.

“You have to protect these areas, and areas of unburnt vegetation because they are critical refuges,” he told Region Media.

“If we lose the Greater Glider, we lose an animal that has a key role in the food chain. It is food for iconic animals like the Powerful Owl, so there is a big knock-on effect if we lose some of these key species in the ecosystem.

“The productivity of forests will start to fall away, and forests are where we get our water from and carbon storage for climate change, and essentially the system starts to unravel. Key things that play a big role in the function of the system start to drop out.”

Although trees may look burnt and dead, they are still important carbon vaults, which is why we need to be careful about salvage logging operations.

“For many of these forests when the fire comes through the green leaves get burnt off the trees but the trunk is still there, which is where most of the carbon is,” Professor Lindenmayer said.

“Most of the root system is still there and is not killed, so what happens is they are regrowing and begin to absorb carbon again.

“We studied the trees after the fires in 2009 and roughly 10 per cent of the carbon was lost, but the rest of the carbon was still in the system. It is really important that this carbon is stored.

“The fires in Victorian forests, some of those areas burnt at close to 80,000 kilowatts per square metre, which was getting close to what the intensity of the fires around Hiroshima were.

“Still, we had 85 to 90 per cent of the carbon still there.”


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20 Responses to Salvage logging could destroy habitat for vulnerable animals, expert warns
Nick James Nick James 11:24 pm 27 Jan 20

Just two weeks ago everyone was all for taking meaningful steps to reduce fuel loads... Soon we'll be chaining ourselves to trees again 🤷‍♂️

Paul South Paul South 9:36 pm 27 Jan 20

Im only aware of salvage logging in soft wood plantations . Where is it happening in our hard wood forests .?

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 9:28 pm 27 Jan 20

No easy answers here, but the prominent intervention of the CFMMEU raises some interesting possibilities locally.

Malcolm Campbell Malcolm Campbell 6:52 pm 27 Jan 20

Another expert on bulldust 🤬

Steve Hambridge Steve Hambridge 5:16 pm 27 Jan 20

Why do we need experts? We can get all of our science from Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones........

    Frank Trapani Frank Trapani 6:17 pm 27 Jan 20

    Steve Hambridge. Why Ask them when we have the environmentalists or the Green??

Marietta McGregor Marietta McGregor 4:10 pm 27 Jan 20

Please heed Dr Lindenmayer.

Frank Trapani Frank Trapani 3:43 pm 27 Jan 20

I am just curious to know how did the bushes and animals survived for thousands and thousands yrs, without the experts??

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 3:53 pm 27 Jan 20

    Humans didn't tamper

    Frank Trapani Frank Trapani 4:12 pm 27 Jan 20

    Russell Nankervis, Correct. And corporate greedy were too busy to rip the benefits of all the goods in Africa, Brazil and around the world...They left as alone, because, they thought that Australia had nothing to offer..Different story now...They're popping out the woods like wild mushrooms..and they want all that we have...More so, agricultural products including the land and water and mining..etc. Whilst we are feed lots of B.S.

    Paul South Paul South 9:31 pm 27 Jan 20

    Some thing to do with active fire management , if you live in the bush and off the bush . And all you have is two legs to escape a fire. The practical demands on survival were a LOT closer to home

    Rona Chadwick Rona Chadwick 7:00 pm 28 Jan 20

    Frank Trapani well the traditional custodians were expert and they have been here 60000 yrs. and they did not sèem to clean up...

    Frank Trapani Frank Trapani 7:23 pm 28 Jan 20

    Rona Chadwick , Would you say that it's fair to let the traditional custodians take care of the bush fires and maybe, considered as an additional future source of food supplies? And Not for deforestation??

Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 2:18 pm 27 Jan 20

"The forest industry and CFMMEU have already called for the selective logging of national parks to reduce fuel loads"

This is really immoral. I'm sure the forestry industry is well aware that selective logging increases fire risk and intensity in most forests.

    Peter Major Peter Major 2:46 pm 27 Jan 20

    do nothing and watch it burn, great option I don't think.

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 2:49 pm 27 Jan 20

    So in your opinion doing something that has been proven to increase the intensity of bushfires is worth doing regardless? Just so it looks like something is being done even though they're achieving the opposite?

    Ever considered a career in politics?

    Ben Roberts Ben Roberts 6:53 pm 27 Jan 20

    Its a great idea. Long overdue.

Peter Major Peter Major 2:04 pm 27 Jan 20

Just let them burn again, good plan.

Clean up sufficiently to reduce fuel loads, doing nothing is what made these ones so bad.

Mother nature fixing up man's negligence i.e. cleaning out the rubbish.

    John Perkins John Perkins 2:21 pm 27 Jan 20

    Peter Major, "cleaning up sufficiently to reduce fuel loads" is something the NSW Forestry Corporation has been a failure at doing.

    Dony Teller Dony Teller 6:27 pm 27 Jan 20

    We just HAD a major fuel load reduction mate (facepalm)

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