Timber industry's new gold standard for forest surveys

Friday, November 2, 2012

The timber industry is touting a new study by Forestry Tasmania as a "landmark study" that they are using to argue that logging does not have a detrimental effect on biodiversity. The study was conducted in Tasmania's Southern Forests Experimental Forest Landscape (SFEFL), a 112,000 Ha area west of Geeveston. Although the report has been heavily promoted by the timber industry, it is not a peer reviewed scientific report and was funded by a timber industry lobby group "Forest and Wood Products Australia".

The timber industry has shown no interest in assessing the impact of logging on biodiversity for more than 10 years since the RFAs were signed but the threat of further logging reductions from the Tasmanian Forest Agreement negotiations was enough to spur some sections of the industry into action. The study relies on data collected from 56 quarter hectare sites i.e only 14 Ha or 0.01% of the SFEFL area was surveyed. As there has been no attempt to collect biodiversity data since the start of the RFAs, this survey is just a sample at a single point in time. Apparently, this is the new "gold standard" for surveying forests for biodiversity impacts.

In many ways the report reads like an undergraduate science project that has gone off the rails. There are numerous errors in graphs and maps throughout the report which has been very poorly proof read. For example, one of the main maps showing the location of the SFEFL site has places inside the study boundary that should be outside the study area!

The report focused on surveying beetles, birds and vascular plants. Incredibly, the bird survey did not even include any surveys between sunset and sunrise, so the impact on owls was not assessed. The total number of species found during their surveys (39) seems pretty low and the published species list omits a number of birds species that have been reported from other surveys done in the area. Summary figures and other statistics for the number of birds found by the study vary depending on what part of the report you read and these conflicting statistics are further evidence of the lack of care taken when this report was cobbled together.

It is truly appalling that demands for the continuation of logging are been driven by such poor quality "science".