Mixed Forest

Cool Temperate Mixed Forest

On 13 August 2015 the Fauna and Flora Research Collective (FFRC) with the Goongerah Environment Centre Office (GECO) released their investigation into the scheduled logging of Cool Temperate Mixed Forest on the Errinundra Plateau of East Gippsland.

The investigation report details the organisations’ methodologies and prescriptions that need to be adopted by the Victorian Government as a matter of urgency.  For 20 years now, since the publication of the 1995 East Gippsland Forest Management Plan, the Victorian Government have been required to develop ways of identifying and protecting Cool Temperate Mixed Forest but in 2015, 20 years later, they have still not done this despite continuing to log in areas supporting this threatened community.

In April this year the following report was released documenting the active logging of other forest areas also on the Errinundra Plateau supporting Cool Temperate Rainforest and Cool Temperate Mixed Forest:

The Victorian Government’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Plannning (DELWP)’s response to the uncovering of this information was woefully short of adequate.  DELWP’s response was criticised by a reviewer commissioned by DELWP to assess whether they had responded to the issue adequately (see excerpts at end of page).

The FFRC and GECO also roundly criticised DELWP’s approach within our report (see excerpts at end of page) and summarised these in a letter to the environment minister:

In order to avoid prosecuting VicForests and the logging contractors who the government did find had bulldozed Cool Temperate Rainforest species, the DELWP had to argue both that because the evidence of Cool Temperate Rainforest had already been (partially) destroyed they were not inclined to prosecute, and, that because the DELWP did not have a methodology for identifying and protecting Cool Temperate Mixed Forest they had no way of telling whether VicForests and the logging contractors had logged it.

Well, to help rectify this farce, we have now developed a detailed methodology and set of prescriptions for identifying the threatened community Cool Temperate Mixed Forest which is set out in the following investigation report. This report also focuses on another planned logging coupe in East Gippsland where we have found Cool Temperate Mixed Forest:

Here are some extracts from the report setting out the basic methodology and prescriptions to be followed:


Dissection of the Cool Temperate Mixed Forest Stand

Mixed Forest Patches

Cool Temperate Mixed Forest patches have strong affinities to Cool Temperate Rainforest core zones with a more or less closed canopy interspersed with canopy gaps of varying size depending on site specific conditions such as prior disturbance and topography. Mixed Forest patches are comprised of primary and secondary succession species that include Cool Temperate Rainforest character species as well as the distinguishing species Notelaea ligustrina, Tasmannia xerophila ssp. Robusta, Dianella tasmanica, Lomatia fraseri, Eucalyptus obliqua, Gahnia sieberiana, Personia silvatica, Prostanthera lasianthos and Polyscias sambucifolia among other additional character species (see Table 1. & Figure B.).

Mixed Forest Core Zone

The Cool Temperate Mixed Forest core zone occupies a broader area than the Mixed Forest patches described above and is encompassing of these patches. These patches are varied in their size and dispersal throughout the Mixed Forest core zone where they are variously clustered together or more widely dispersed. The broader Mixed Forest core zone contains isolated examples of individual Cool Temperate Rainforest and Mixed Forest canopy species (or the long lived arborescent shrubs listed above), as well as small clusterings of these species. The Mixed Forest core zone contains gaps of varying sizes amongst the isolated or clustered presence of Rainforest or Mixed Forest character species where species representative of the Wet or Montane Wet Forest component of the Mixed Forest stand may dominate. These gaps may support species such as the following trees or shrubs: Dicksonia antarctica, Eucalyptus obliqua, Eucalyptus fastigata, Acacia frigescens, Acacia dealbata and Prostanthera lasianthos, and/or those such as the following understorey species: Leucopogon maccraei, Dianella tasmanica, Olearia phlogopappa, Histiopteris incisa, Blechnum wattsii, Coprosma quadrifida, Coprosma hirtella, Pimelea axiflora and Leptinella filicula (see Table 1. & Figure B.).

Mixed Forest Ecotone

The Mixed Forest ecotone extends from the centre of the Cool Temperate Rainforest core zone (if it is present at the particular location) passing through the Mixed Forest core zone, encompassing Mixed Forest patches, out to the extremity of the persistence of Rainforest and Mixed Forest character species in conjunction with the geographic and topographic conditions necessary for the development of Cool Temperate Mixed Forest. The Mixed Forest ecotone can generally be considered a regenerative expansion zone involving the interaction between Cool Temperate Mixed Forest and the surrounding Wet or Montane Wet Forest where its particular floristic composition at a given time is a product of the time elapsed since the last major disturbance event in conjunction with its potential to progress to a more advanced Mixed Forest or Cool Temperate Rainforest community where this potentiality is a product of its location within a conducive geographic location and topographical configuration. The Mixed Forest ecotone is characterised by a stronger presence of Wet or Montane Wet Forest character species and disclimax or secondary Mixed Forest character species, likely originating from the last major disturbance. Isolated pockets, either clustered or as isolated individuals, of remnant primary Cool Temperate Rainforest or Mixed Forest character species not generally found outside of the protected niches described above may also be present (see Table 1. & Figure B.).


Prescriptions for the Protection of Cool Temperate Mixed Forest

Prescription 1 Protection of 90% of the Mixed Forest EVC

Until at least 90% of Cool Temperate Mixed Forest is protected from the impacts of logging and other forms of avoidable disturbance, all stands of Cool Temperate Mixed Forest must be protected from the impacts of logging through the application of minimum 40m vegetative buffers extending out radially from the Cool Temperate Mixed Forest ecotone.

Prescription 2 Sub-catchment Protection

In addition to providing whole of EVC protection measures, and/or short of providing dissected protective measures based on the various areas identifiable within the Cool Temperate Mixed Forest stand, the most effective and simplest approach to protective measures with the greatest fidelity to the demands of the precautionary principle is to provide sub-catchment protection (generally) up hill from the identified presence of the Cool Temperate Mixed Forest ecotone. Where the ecotone is situated close to a sub-catchment watershed a vegetative buffer of a minimum of 40m is to extend radially from the Cool Temperate Mixed Forest ecotone.

Prescription 3 Dissected Protection Measures

  1. Mixed Forest Ecotone
    A minimum 40m vegetative buffer excluding all logging operations must be placed, extending radially from the Cool Temperate Mixed Forest ecotone identified according to the topographic extent of the ecotone identified at a particular location.
  2. Mixed Forest Core Zone (containing Mixed Forest Patches)
    A minimum 100m vegetative buffer from which all logging operations is excluded must extend radially from the Cool Temperate Mixed Forest core zone identified according to the topographic extent of the core zone identified at a particular location.Guidance on Identification and Protection:

    1. The Cool Temperate Mixed Forest core zone and ecotone boundaries are located along the topographic contour, or radial contour extending outwards from the centre of the Cool Temperate Mixed Forest stand, where the existence of features typical of the Cool Temperate Mixed Forest core zone or ecotone are no longer encountered at a particular point along the topographic or radial contour of the investigation location. Protective buffers on each of these Cool Temperate Mixed Forest components must begin from these boundaries.
    2. When searching for features typical of the Cool Temperate Mixed Forest core zone or ecotone a wide area of search must be conducted relative to the particular expected distribution of the Cool Temperate Mixed Forest core zone or ecotone as determined by the topographic configuration of the particular investigation location.
    3. Special care must be taken to identify the extent and boundaries of the Cool Temperate Mixed Forest core zone and ecotone where previous disturbance events have impacted on the floristic composition or structure of the Cool Temperate Mixed Forest stand with particular consideration as to whether the prior disturbance event was major, i.e. stand replacing, or minor, i.e. from wind-throw or senescence.


Reports/ Correspondence/Letters/Media/Reference Documents:

 Cool Temperate Mixed Forest Reports:

FFGA SAC Cool Temperate Mixed Forest Listing Advice:

Related Media Reports:

DELWP Correspondence and GHD review:

Note: The GHD finds some quite obvious contradictions advanced by DELWP in their attempt to avoid responsibility for developing and enforcing Cool Temperate Mixed Forest protection, here’s a snippet:

And here are some excerpts from the criticism contained within our report:

Criticism of DELWP’s recent comments regarding Cool Temperate Mixed Forest

It is sometimes argued by DELWP that given they sometimes take the view that there are contradictions within the regulatory framework regarding the description and categorisation of Cool Temperate Mixed Forest (principally concerning whether the community is considered rainforest, whether its structure and floristic composition is distinct and whether the community has been defined for operational purposes) it is difficult to protect this community.

The position DELWP take is said to rest on the proposition that Cool Temperate Mixed Forest’s ecological status is somewhat ambiguous as to its relation to Cool Temperate Rainforest and Wet or Montane Wet Forest or whether it is a distinct community (and/or ecological vegetation class (EVC)).1

Whether one or a combination of the potential perspectives on this questions is taken by DELWP, or whether one can ultimately place a boundary on this ecological continua or resolve scientific contemplation is not a reason to postpone measures to protect Cool Temperate Mixed Forest.

Indeed, the ‘precautionary principle‘ as it is expressed in the current Code of Practice for Timber Production, which must be adhered to as a mandatory requirement specifically states:

When dealing with threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.2

The publication of the East Gippsland Forest Management Plan in 1995 concluded its consideration of Cool Temperate Mixed Forest by promising that “suitable prescriptions will be developed to ensure that at least 90% of the Mixed Forest vegetation class is protected.”3

20 years later, in 2015, this has still not occurred4 while extensive high intensity logging operations have continued in areas of forest on the Errinundra Plateau in East Gippsland that were highly likely to have sustained suitable conditions for this community.

It is clear that Cool Temperate Mixed Forest is an extremely restricted community that remains subject to real and present threats. As such the alleged regulatory gap concerning this situation can and must be rectified as a matter of urgency and can be done so much simpler then the Department has foreshadowed.5

This report provides a methodology for identifying and protecting Cool Temperate Mixed Forest whether DELWP considers it a subset of Cool Temperate Rainforest or of Wet or Montane Wet Forest or as a distinct ecological community or vegetation class in its own right.

Detailed below are some key minimum requirements that must be incorporated into the regulatory framework as contributions to prescriptions for identifying and protecting Cool Temperate Mixed Forest throughout its transitional and seral developments.

11 NB: This report considers Cool Temperate Mixed Forest to be a distinctly identifiable ecological vegetation class able to be identified and protected by prescription unencumbered by varying contemplations as to its classification or categorisation and that the regulatory framework at least from 1995 to the present has demanded this approach.

12 Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014, pp. 11, 21, 23, 31-32, 34-35

13 Forest Management Plan For The East Gippsland Forest Management Area, Victoria Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, East Melbourne, December 1995, p. 14-15, 18

14 DELWP, “Attachment 2 DELWP planning report_Redacted: Planning and regulatory issues associated with Cool Temperate Mixed Forest and Old Growth in East Gippsland”, Melbourne, July 2015 [pers. Comm.], p. 4

15 DELWP, “Attachment 2 DELWP planning report_Redacted: Planning and regulatory issues associated with Cool Temperate Mixed Forest and Old Growth in East Gippsland”, Melbourne, July 2015 [pers. Comm.], p. 6


And here are a series of images from the Cool Temperate Mixed Forest found within VicForests scheduled logging coupe 886-509-0012:

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