Report on the ‘thoroughly modern’ RFA presentation

Forests don’t need clearfelling

The Daniel Andrews government is determined to roll over the 20 year clearfelling agreement called the RFA, with slight modifications it is calling ‘modernising’ of the logging of critically important native forests. The lend it credibility it held a public presentation at the respected Victorian Royal Society on December 20th 2018. Those speaking were:

·    Dr Rebecca Ford, Senior Research Fellow, School of Ecosystem & Forest Science, The University of Melbourne (funding from DELWP)

·    Dr Lindy Lumsden, Principal Research Scientists, Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research (govt)

·    Dr Graeme Newell, Research Scientist, Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research (govt)

·    Associate ProfessorCraig Nitschke, Senior Research Fellow, School of Ecosystem & Forest Science, The University of Melbourne (DELWP funding).

A senior government botanist now retired, attended the session and gave this report back:

“The meeting consisted of presentations from two DELWP employees (LL & GN) from the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research (ARI) and two DELWP-funded Melbourne University researchers (RF &CN).  It was clearly part of the process of establishing DELWP as an expert and informed input to the review of the Regional Forest Agreements recently initiated.

The meeting was interesting, with a couple of very good presentations.  I particularly valued that by Graeme Newell, as it outlined recent work in modelling habitats, focussing on rare species – a decidedly real advance. 

Lindy Lumsden outlined the new survey process (to fill in data gaps), run by staff from ARI.  This is also focused on rare spp likely to be affected by logging. 

Rebecca Ford … well, let’s just say that sociology is not my field … To me, her surveys focused on small samples, selected & thus not representative and the findings were unsurprising. 

Craig Nitschke’s presentation had some real problems with definitions and assumptions.  For example, he accepted the traditional forester definition that ‘Mixed Forest’ is not rainforest and refers to emergent eucalypts growing over an understorey of rainforest species, when the definition accepted by the state government-appointed Rainforest Technical Committee (1987) specified that forests with emergent eucalypts thru a rainforest canopy are included within the definition of ‘rainforest’.  This definition has been subsequently accepted by the Scientific Advisory Committee (under the Flora & Fauna Guarantee) and in the Vegetation of East Gippsland – III report published in 2011.  Thus Craig’s rainforest mapping is not comprehensive. 

But (here comes the excitement) he has now acquired statistics on the existence of multi-aged Wet Forests, notably forests of Eucalyptus regnans (Mountain Ash). There have been observations of multi-aged Mountain Ash forest (including on Mt Disappointment by David Ashton and in the Rodger River pre-logging survey) but these have been glossed over and ignored by Departmental insistence that clearfell logging simply recapitulates the way these forests behaved in nature before white feller logging.  In Craig’s experimental site at Poweltown, four distinct cohorts of the canopy E. regnans were identified, dating back four centuries or so, even tho this same area was marked & mapped as (solely)1939 regrowth.  I do not know if these data of his have been published(yet).  They clearly demonstrate that, altho we can manage these forests with clearfell logging, this does not mimic essential ‘natural’ ecological processes.  This is further evidence that wet forests dominated by a single age cohort may be a contrivance resulting from our commercial logging operations. Or, at the very least, that such wet forests can exist without the catastrophic and total mass die off in fires (including planned‘regeneration burns’) & subsequent seedling regeneration.”

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