Temporal fragmentation of a critically endangered forest ecosystem

Date: 21, Feb, 2020
Author(s):   Taylor, C., Lindenmayer, D.B.
Publisher: Austral Ecology

Landscape change and habitat fragmentation is increasingly affecting forests worldwide. Assessments of patterns of spatial cover in forests over time can be critical as they reveal important information about landscape condition. In this study, we assessed landscape patterns across the Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) and Alpine Ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis) forests in the Central Highlands of Victoria between 1999 and 2019. These forests have experienced major disturbance over the past 20 years through a major fire (in 2009) and extensive industrial logging. We found that around 70% and 65% of the Mountain Ash and Alpine Ash forest areas, respectively, were either disturbed or within 200 m of a disturbed area. Inclusion of planned logging increased these disturbance categories to 72% and 70%, respectively. We also found that the isolation of Mountain Ash core areas (patches of undisturbed forest >1000 ha) increased significantly (P < 0.05) over our study period, with the proximity between disturbed areas conversely increasing significantly (P < 0.05). This means that continued and planned disturbance through industrial logging will have an amplified adverse effect on remaining undisturbed ash forest patches, which will become smaller and more dispersed across the landscape.