Just as a portrait is more than colours on a canvas, a forest is far more than simply a collection of trees.”

Life in the Tall Eucalypt Forests, 2000

Old tree collapse and decay surveys are a huge part of our monitoring in the Ash Forests. This log in the foreground has pallen from the top of a 50 metre tall tree and landed 30 metres from the base.

David Lindenmayer, started working in Victoria's Central Highlands in 1983, making this the longest running monitoring program in the group. The montane ash forests are located 60-120km east of Melbourne’s CBD.  The program has 175 sites within land managed by DELWP, Parks Victoria and Melbourne Water including State Forest, National Park, reference areas, and water catchments, from Toolangi in the west, Rubicon in the North, Powelltown in the south and Thompson Dam in the east. 

Now led on the ground by Lachie McBurney and David Blair, this program investigates the tall forest ecosystems of Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) and Alpine Ash (E. delegatensis). It’s estimated that only 1.5-3% of old growth forest remains and this is under threat from major fires and clear-fell logging.

This long-term study investigates the functions and needs of the forest and its fauna in order to determine the best management actions in the future. Quantifying post-fire recovery of the forest, such as after the Black Saturday fires of 2009, is a key focus of the study.

The locations of the 175 long term monitoring plots in Victoria's Central Highlands

The critically endangered Leadbeater's Possum Gymnobelideus leadbeateri.

Lachie McBurney stands beneath one of the team's study trees.  This giant Mountain Ash Eucalyptus regnans is one of nearly 2000 trees monitored by the team.

Arboreal marsupials (possums and gliders), birds and vegetation are monitored annually, including targeted surveys for the critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum each year. If you would like more information about the Leadbeater's Possum, please see our fact sheet here

Small mammals, tree decay/collapse rates, carbon, logs, ecological stocking rates are also monitored long term, with a focus to investigate response to fire. These long term sites have data records from the 1980's to the present.

In addition to the long term sites, several other studies run simultaneously: 

·              The Variable Retention Harvesting experiment

·                  The Salvage Logging experiment

·                  The Seeding experiment

·                  The Nestbox experiment

·                  A subset of sites looking at Carbon, beetles, bryophytes.

These studies look at retained patches in clear-felled and salvage logging coupes, artificially seeded and unseeded coupe areas, tree fall rates, ecological stocking rates, small mammals and also traditional clearfelling coupe surveys.

Dr. Sam Banks undertaking his small mammal surveys after the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.  This Bush Rat Rattus fuscipes was released from a trap and didn't seem to concerned with our presence!

This research project relies on a partnerships with DELWP, Parks Victoria, LTERN, The Graeme Wood Foundation and WildMob. These partnerships have been developed to build the existing knowledge of these forests and to explore new opportunities to ensure we can deliver practical outcomes, guided by real on ground data.

Much of the research undertaken in the Victorian Central Highlands falls within the proposed Great Forest National Park

Links and references:

·         As part of the Conservation and Landscape Ecology Group research at The Australian National University

·         Lindenmayer, D.B., Beaton, E. (2000). Life in the tall eucalypt forests. New Holland Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd.


This research would not be possible without the enthusiastic and dedicated involvement of many passionate volunteers. We would like to thank the Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum for their ongoing support and we are indebted to the thousands of volunteers who have stagwatched over the decades. We hope to continue to work with such amazing people into the future.