Clearfell logging is making the wet forests of the Otways drier and more fire prone
| Scientific research has demonstrated that clearfell logging is making
the wet forests of the Otways drier and more fire prone. This is due to
the vegetation that re-establishes after clearfell logging in wet forests
being made up of species that normally inhabit a drier environment.
In a recent interview in the Age (13/5/02) Steve Mueck, a consultant ecologist and former head of the Natural Resources and Environment Forest Flora Unit, made the following comments regarding the impact of clearfell logging on fire risk within wet forests.
"In a situation where wetter (plant) components have been eliminated, (by clearfell logging), the forest is drier and structurally there is a greater opportunity for fires to start, so we are building a potential fire bomb. This is not to say it wasn't flammable to start with, but we are making the situation worse from a fire perspective."
The following research papers support the conclusion that clearfell logging is making wet forests drier and more fire prone
Summary and Conclusions, Page 78:
"The concept that intensive timber harvesting establishes a plant community more typical of drier environments was also supported by the models of species such as Cyathea australis and Dicksonia antarctica (tree-fern) and the general decline in moisture dependent species such as epiphytic ferns. While the initial decline of tree-ferns in this community is no doubt related to the mechanical disturbance and intense regeneration burn associated with timber harvesting, their consistently lower occurrence in regrowth forests for at least 30 years reflects the persistence of drier conditions. These changes in site floristics probably remain until the next disturbance event, as suggested by Purdie and Slatyer (1976), although the loss of tree-ferns as a prominent feature of any community may persist much longer because of their slow growth rate."