A double-whammy. After eight years of failure, VicForests is trying something new in the coupe at the corner of Barjarg Rd & Ferraris Tk (411-504-0002). In the past they’ve wind-rowed, burnt, scalped, maybe even seeded the coupe – not only have these attempts failed, they’ve made natural regeneration of a healthy, biodiverse forest in the coupe near-impossible – at least for many decades.
VicForests’ most recent attempt is a trial planting of seedlings of several species of eucalypt in the coupe to test the effectiveness of different types of guards. The browsing impact of Black Wallabies and Rabbits on juicy seedlings is likely to be high, so guarding any planted seedlings is a must. The results of the trial will indeed be interesting, but the method appears flawed.
Regenerating trees using nursery-grown seedlings is one thing, it may grow a crop of trees, but that won’t regenerate the forest. The trial doesn’t appear to include any ground-layer or understorey species, though that could be part of a bigger, subsequent trial. And given the community’s involvement in and concern about this whole issue, it’s disappointing that the community hasn’t been involved or even informed.
To the best of our knowledge the trial includes five treatments (guard types) set out in rows, with about five replicates per row. It’s a small trial to start with and the placement of treatments isn’t randomized, which precludes meaningful statistical analysis of results. It makes you wonder how serious this trial is – perhaps not at all.
Our questions are:
- How extensive and long-term is the trial?
- Will the trial include a diversity of species, representative of the original forest?
- Was there input from DEPI/other ecologists about the methodology behind the trial?
- What question/s is the trial addressing and how will the trial be assessed?
- Will the trial and the need for any subsequent coupe-scale revegetation activities be taken into account in a profit-loss assessment of these forestry operations?
Regardless of the outcomes of the trial, in principle we’re opposed to large-scale, tree-only revegetation of this coupe, as it will result in the transformation of a natural forest into a forestry plantation. Perhaps the effort VicForests have put into this little trial reflects their concern about forest conservation generally?