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Conserv Biol. 2006 Aug;20(4):1005-15.

Salvage logging in the montane ash eucalypt forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria and its potential impacts on biodiversity.

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Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, 0200, Australia.


The two major forms of disturbance in the montane ash eucalypt forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria (southeastern Australia) are clearfell logging and unplanned wildfires. Since the 1930s wildfire has been followed by intensive and extensive salvage-logging operations, which may proceed for many years after a wildfire has occurred. Although applied widely, the potential effects of salvage logging on native flora and fauna have been poorly studied. Our data indicate that the abundance of large trees with hollows is significantly reduced in forests subject to salvage harvesting. This has implications for thepersistence of an array of such cavity-using vertebrates as the endangered arboreal marsupial, Leadbeater's possum (Gymnobelidues leadbeateri). Salvage logging also reduces the prevalence of multiaged montane ash forests--places that typically support the highest diversity of arboreal marsupials and forest birds. Limited research has been conducted on the effects of salvage logging on plants; thus, we constructed hypotheses about potential impacts for further testing based on known responses to clearfell logging and key life history attributes. We predict many species, such as vegetatively resprouting tree ferns, will decline, as they do after clearfelling. We also suggest that seed regenerators, which typically regenerate well after fire or conventional clearfelling, will decline after salvage logging because the stimulation for germination (fire) takes place prior to mechanical disturbance (logging). Understoryplant communities in salvage-logged areas will be dominated by a smaller suite of species, and those that are wind dispersed, have viable soil-stored seed remaining after salvage logging, or have deep rhizomes are likely to be advantaged. We recommend the following improvements to salvage-logging policies that may better incorporate conservation needs in Victorian montane ash forests: (1) exemption of salvage logging from some areas (e.g., old-growth stands and places subject to only partial stand damage); (2) increased retention of biological legacies on burned areas through variations in the intensity of salvage logging; and (3) reduction in the levels of physical disturbance on salvage-logged areas, especially through limited seedbed preparation and mechanical disturbance.

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