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Post-fire logging will have catastrophic consequences, says ecologist

Sustainability Matters

January 30, 2020

A world-leading ecologist has issued a dire warning of the terrible consequences of post-fire logging, iterating that the practice could have catastrophic environmental consequences in the wake of unprecedented bushfires.

David Lindenmayer, Professor of Ecology and Conservation Biology at the Australian National University, has led global research on the effects of post-fire logging for more than 16 years.

He explained that the logging industry will always look to log whatever they can after bushfires but stressed that logging after fires will have far worse effects than the original fires themselves.

“Post-fire logging is by far the most damaging form of logging. The impact it will have on Australia’s fire-ravaged ecosystems will be catastrophic,” Prof Lindenmayer said.

“The science is clear: post-fire logging these regions will decimate plant and animal life, significantly impair the forest recovery process, and actually heighten the fire risk for years to come.

“Plans to log after fire are being hastily put together across the country, but I implore our policymakers to consider the long-term health of our forests and the survival and recovery of wildlife.

“In East Gippsland and southern NSW, trees can resprout after they’ve been burnt by fire, and actually play a critical role in the forest’s recovery process. This means that the proposed post-fire logging will be cutting down living trees.

“And it’s not just the trees that survive bushfires; our research has found that many animals, ranging from small mammals to possums and gliders, survive in heavily burned areas.

Prof Lindenmayer said that overzealous post-fire logging in these areas, using heavy machinery, will have a devastating effect on surviving native animal populations.

“We need to give these surviving animals, trees and plants a chance to recover,” he said.

“Alarmingly, post-fire logging can increase the risk of reburning due to debris that’s left behind.

“Furthermore, when a logged area is regrown, research shows the forest becomes highly prone to another fire after roughly seven years, and then remains at high fire risk an additional 36-plus years.

“While there’s massive pressure from logging industry lobbyists to log fire-damaged areas, we must resist this. There is actually very little economic value of burnt timber as it can only be used for woodchips, so it’s time logging contractors’ skills at operating heavy machinery are better utilised by retraining them as elite firefighters.

“The logging industry uses the disingenuous term ‘salvage logging’, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is logging, pure and simple, and if we don’t act now the environmental consequences will be catastrophic.”

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Steve Lovegrove

Categories

Ecosystems, Wildlife & Biodiversity