Long-term biodiversity and forest monitoring in the Victorian montane ash forests

Victorian Central Highlands

The Australian National University has maintained key long-term monitoring in the montane ash forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria since 1983. It is some of the longest running forest monitoring work in the world. It is also the only time-series forest monitoring of biodiversity in Victorian forests.

The work is especially important because of its focus on populations of species of conservation concern including Leadbeater’s Possum and the Greater Glider. The monitoring is conducted at 173 long-term sites that span reserves, water catchments and wood production forests (providing a powerful cross-tenure set of contrasts).

Results generated from the past 5 years of monitoring conducted by the ANU and funded by the Victorian Government

We provide reports of major progress to the Victorian Government on a 6-monthly basis.

The monitoring work to date has provided a thorough and independent assessment of the status of biodiversity in montane ash forests, as well as detailed assessments of the status of the forest itself and the response of the ecosystems to fire and logging (including responses after the 2009 fire). The key insights derived from the past 5 years of monitoring supported by the Victorian Government include:

  1. A decline in populations of arboreal marsupials including populations of species of conservation concern such as Leadbeater’s Possum, Greater Glider and the Yellow-bellied Glider.
  2. Temporal changes in populations of forest birds, including a decline in populations.
  3. Declines in the abundance of large old trees – which provide nesting and denning resources for cavity-dependent species (including the Leadbeater’s Possum, Greater Glider and the Yellow-bellied Glider).
  4. Changes in the abundance and types of plant species in response to fire, logging and combinations of fire and logging (i.e. salvage logging).
  5. Biotic responses to Variable Retention harvesting, conventional clearcutting and salvage logging measured through randomized and replicated field experiments.
  6. Estimates of plant regeneration success and failure in areas subject to fire and post-harvesting stands.
  7. The extent of deer browsing across the montane ash estate – this is a major emerging problem in these environments which is compromising the extent of forest regeneration after natural and human disturbances.
  8. Changes in soil nutrients and composition following natural and human disturbances.
  9. Accumulation of carbon in sites of different ages and subject to different disturbances over time.
  10. Quantification of the impacts of climate change on key groups of biodiversity including vascular plants and birds.

On the basis of these monitoring projects, we have published 35 peer-reviewed scientific articles in some of the world’s leading international journals. We also provide species location records to the Victorian Government for inclusion in wildlife databases. Finally, Lindenmayer provides regular briefings to State ministers and their advisors.

The ANU provides fully independent, scientifically-based advice to Ministers, ministerial staff and senior government staff on request. We also will provide copies of all published written material as well as briefing documents concerning the importance of the latest research.