Link between native forest logging and bushfires

Link between native forest logging and bushfires prompts calls for rethink of forest management

By state political reporter Alexandra Humphries
Posted , updated 
There is growing pressure on the Tasmanian government to rethink its native forest management practices, after new University of Tasmania research found regenerating forests are more prone to high-severity bushfires than mature forests.

The study focused on Tasmanian eucalyptus forest, aiming to assess how fire danger changes as forests mature, to help predict bushfire behaviour.

Wildfire ecologist James Furlaud said the study found fire risk in older forests was much lower than in young forests, and clear-felling — the practice of removing all trees from a coupe — could increase fire risk.

“The older forests, especially really old forests, had moister understories, and because they had taller trees in the canopy it was much harder to have these very large, intense fires in older forests than in younger forests,” Dr Furlaud said.

Forest ecology professor David Lindenmayer from the Australian National University has identified similar results in his research, focused on Victoria.

That research found that in the first few years after an area was logged, the chance of a high severity fire was low, but in subsequent decades a logged and regenerated forest was much more likely to burn at higher severity.

In Victorian wet forests, similar to some Tasmanian forests, the risk level increased by seven times.

“The take-home message here is that logging always contributes to higher severity fires,” Professor Lindenmayer said.

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work and live, the Yuin Nation, Wolgalu, Ngarigo, Ngunnawal and Ngambri people(s), and pay our respect to Elders, past, present and emerging.