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Vegetation dynamics of Eucalyptus microcorys E. saligna wet sclerophyll forest in response to logging

Reference Number: AA-01910 Views: 8602 Created: 28-02-2014 10:00 Last Updated: 12-03-2014 15:06 0 Rating/ Voters

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Title:Vegetation dynamics of Eucalyptus microcorys E. saligna wet sclerophyll forest in response to logging
Author/s:Douglas L. Binns
University/Institution:University of New England
Abstract:"Wet sclerophyll forest in north-eastern N.S.W. is a floristically and structurally diverse vegetation type. Previously unlogged stands have been highly productive of timber for over half a century and will continue to remain an important source for the next few decades. Logging in these forests is selective but intense, commonly removing a large proportion of the canopy biomass, and there is concern over logging impact on the biota. Wet sclerophyll forests variously dominated by Eucalyptus microcorys, E. saligna and Lophostemon confertus occur extensively on the eastern tablelands escarpment in north-eastern N.S.W. This thesis addresses one aspect of logging impact on these forests: the changes in floristic composition and vegetation structure forests and relevant aspects of successional theory. This study used a chronosequence approach to infer successional changes due to logging by investigating a series of stands representing three logging classes, unlogged forest and forest 10yr and 30yr post-logging. Twelve, nine and ten replicates respectively were sampled. The study was undertaken in the Doyles River group of State Forests, a continuous forested area of about 60 000 ha in the N.S.W. mid-north coast hinterland about 40km north-west of Taree. Qualitative and quantitative floristic differences among the three logging classes were investigated. Problems encountered in considering the classes as a chronosequence, mainly due to changes in silvicultural practice, are discussed. Most woody plant species occurred in both logged and unlogged plots, and none of the more frequent species occurred solely in unlogged plots. Only three species (Endiandra muelleri, Diospyros australis and Citriobatus pauciflorus) were less abundant in logged plots than in unlogged plots. Post-logging vegetation includes a substantial component of early successional and nomad species (including sclerophyll overstorey species) which colonise disturbed sites but do not successfully regenerate in undisturbed forest. These are stems additional to those of unlogged stands, so that the numbers of stems of "primary" species in logged areas differs only in size distribution from unlogged areas. Most of the common primary forest understorey species demonstrated a high propensity to resprout vegetatively, and resprout stems were an important component of post-logging vegetation. Most primary species also appear to be ecological generalists, capable of regenerating or persisting under a wide range of conditions. Evidence noted during this study suggests that the existing understorey flora of unlogged wet sclerophyll forest has almost certainly developed under a regime of periodic and fairly frequent (of the order of decades) burning. The features which allow a species to persist under this regime are also conducive to persistence following logging disturbance. This empirical chronosequence study suggests that in terms of understorey floristics, wet sclerophyll forests are resilient to a single logging event. The most common species in unlogged stands are also common after logging. Even in the locally most heavily disturbed patches which were the focus of this study, very few woody species were adversely affected by logging. This is most likely because the disturbance regime under which these forests have developed prevents the accumulation of potentially sensitive species in the understorey flora. The few such species may be disturbance-sensitive and/or specialist species at the limits of their ecological tolerance. At the broader scale, these species may persist in less severely disturbed patches in the mosaic of logging intensities which characterise a logged area. "
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