Landscape structure and mature forest biodiversity in wet eucalypt forests: a spatial analysis of timber production areas in South-Eastern Australia
Wood, SW and Wardlaw, TJ and Pryde, EC and Baker, SC, Landscape structure and mature forest biodiversity in wet eucalypt forests: a spatial analysis of timber production areas in South-Eastern Australia, Forests, 8, (3) Article 89. ISSN 1999-4907 (2017) [Refereed Article]
Fire and timber harvesting can diminish the extent of older forests in the near term. The amount and configuration of mature and regenerating forest in the landscape (landscape structure) influences habitat suitability for mature-forest-associated species. We applied spatial analysis to describe the landscape structure of three wet eucalypt forest landscapes in south-eastern Australia and used the results from empirical biodiversity studies to frame interpretation of possible impacts on habitat suitability. We determined the extent of structurally mature forest, its reservation status, and the extent to which it may be edge affected. We also assessed how landscape structure potentially impacts the re-establishment of mature-forest-associated species into previously harvested areas through the proximity to (mature forest influence) - and extent of (landscape context) - mature forest in the surrounding landscape. Our analyses were designed to inform forest management initiatives that draw on these landscape-scale concepts. Central Highlands Victoria had less structurally mature eucalypt forest (4%) compared to North West Tasmania (14%) and Southern Forests Tasmania (21%). Detrimental effects of edge influence on structurally mature forest appeared relatively minor. Low levels of mature forest influence combined with low-medium surrounding mature forest cover (landscape context) indicate potential limitations on recolonisation of coupes by mature-forest-associated species. Our results vindicate the recent shift toward variable retention silviculture and landscape context planning. Our approach to landscape analysis provides a useful framework for other managed forest landscapes.