Landmark study – clearfell logging makes bushfires deadly

A two-year landmark study of the deadly Black Saturday fires that killed 159 people shows conclusively that the intensity was significantly increased by clear-fell logging of forests.

The study is dynamite and is published in Conservation Letters.

Scientists from Melbourne University and the ANU (Professor David Lindenmayer, Dr Chris Taylor and Dr Michael McCarthy) say the study showed conclusively that the thick flammable logging regrowth made the deadly blaze much more extreme.

They also warn that increased fire danger lasts for up to 70 years after logging, with the intensity threat peaking between 10 and 50 years.

This added severity is sufficient to kill people and add significantly to property and forest damage.

Regrowth forests have more trees growing close together and contain large amounts of flash fuels that makes fire burn more fiercely, the study found.

Old-growth forests usually have wet rainforest understorey canopies, which are less flammable than the drier understorey of regrowth forests.
In the past 50 years, more than 47,000 ha of wet forest have been logged with 17,600 ha to be logged in the next five years.

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