Clearfell Logging in the Otway Forested Catchments - Water Yield and Water Quality Issues Otway Ranges Environment Network
 Previous Page Index Next Page  Return to OREN website

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

Research Papers

    • Impacts of intensive timber harvesting on the forests of East Gippsland, Victoria. Conservation & Natural Resources, VSP Technical Report No. 15. S.g. Mueck & R.J. Peacock

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."

    • Floristics, Fire and Clearfell in Wet Forests of the Central Highlands, Victoria. Dept. Conservation and Environment July 1992, Flora and Fauna Dept, VSP Technical Report No. 11
    • The response of vegetation to changing fire regimes and human activity in East Gippsland, Victoria, Australia Department of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University. Peter A. Gell, Ian-Malcolm Stuart and J. David Smith
    • The effects of clearfell logging on tree ferns in Victoria Wet Forest, DNRE Flora and Fauna branch. Nov 1996
Copyright (c) Otway Ranges Environment Network Inc