simple terms, clearfelling is the removal of all trees from an
area chosen for harvesting (logging). An area designated for logging
is called a coupe. After the "bole"
(the trunk section of a tree that is suitable for sawmilling or
woodchipping) is removed from the site, all other logging residue
such as branches, foliage and bark (called "slash")
is left on the ground to dry. At a later date the coupe is set
on fire. Sometimes forestry workers on the ground light the fire
manually and other times forestry workers in helicopters drop
ping pong balls injected with a napalm type substance that self
ignites. The regeneration burns usually result in all organic
matter in and around the coupe burning. This means any surviving
plants are also killed. After the regeneration burns coupes look
like a wasteland. Most coupes in Victoria are usually between
40 and 120 hectares in size.
Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) forestry experts
prefer this method of logging because it is cost effective i.e.
most amount of timber for the least amount of effort and because
it supposedly "mimics nature". Despite constant criticism
and evidence to the contrary from public and scientists alike,
they still claim that this clearing and burning "mimics" natural
Any similarity between bushfire and clearfelling is purely superficial.
There is no natural process that leaves
results like those of logtrucks, bulldozers, logloaders or any
similar twenty tonne piece of logging machinery. These machines
either compact soils or grind and churn through the soil bringing
acid sulphate subsoils to the surface. This results in complex
chemical reactions which can in turn cause problems for soil micro
flora and fauna.
problems can arise when deep ruts and channels from machine tracks
fill with water. These pools can fester with toxic, stagnant and
pathogen filled water that runs into waterways following rain.
Sediment run-off can also suffocate aquatic life and smother habitats
in river-beds and estuaries.
spurious assertion that clearfelling "mimics nature" is
based on the response of Mountain Ash forests (Eucalyptus regnans)
to fire. Mountain
Ash trees are killed by fire and the forest regenerates from seed.
In Victoria only a relatively small percentage of our forest is Mountain
Ash so to apply a management regime to all our forests based on the
fire response of one forest type is rather strange. When an Ash forest
burns, the trees will die but remain standing until natural deterioration
brings them down to be decomposed and recycled. I think we can safely
assume there were no bulldozers, skidders, log trucks etc. involved
in the life cycle of Ash forests until industrial forestry came to
this land in the latter half of the 20th century!
of our Eucalypt forests are not killed by fire. Many species are adapted
to survive fire. They sometimes have bark that provides some level
of protection for trees. Many species have epicormal shoots or lignotubers.
Epicormal and lignotuber tissue are particular types of plant tissue
that can quickly send out new growth in the event of physical damage
to a tree.
weeks or months of bushfire these forest types will burst back into
life with buds and shoots sprouting new leaves and branches. Clearfelling
does not "mimic nature" in these forest types. The death,
let alone the removal, of trees after bushfire is a wholly alien experience
to these ecosystems. To suggest otherwise can only be a calculated
campaign to propagate a lie.
is one of several similar harvesting techniques. Shelterwood
logging basically involves clearfelling of a coupe but it is
done in stages. Seed-tree
logging involves leaving a few trees that will shed seed before they
die and a few other trees that supposed to provide habitat but the
ecological disturbance often leads to these trees dying as well. For
all intents and purposes, seed tree and shelterwood
are clearfell harvesting systems with a dash of public relations spin
impacts from clearfelling include:
- Soil disturbance; soil compaction affects the ability of plants
to regenerate and of the soil itself to capture and hold moisture,
bringing subsoil to the surphase can change the chemistry of soil
and in some instance may even lead to the soil becoming toxic,
regeneration burns can sterilise the soil by killing off micro
flora and fauna which
live in soil. All these effects have
a cumulative impact on soil flora, fauna, chemistry, andstructure.
These four factors are essential to the overall health of soil
and its ability to sustain forests.
- Soil stored seed being lost, some seed can survive for hundreds
of years in soil but if it may not be viable if it is subjected
to the effects of clearfelling.
- Loss off habitat. When a forest is logged in 80 year cycles,
trees will no longer develop hollows which provide homes for
a variety of birds and animals, the absence of these species
can also impact on the lifecycle of many other animals, plants
and insects in the forest. Forests are complex systems with
a myriad of interactions that are not immediately obvious or
Loss of the understorey
which can be as old as the trees overhead. It also provides unique
habitat that is necessary for the survival of some species.
- Destruction of younger trees inhibits "succession"
thereby destroying future resource.
- Creates forest lacking the variable age and species structures
that normally distinguish natural successional forest.
- Disturbing natural ecotones within forest. "Ecotonal",
or transitional forest has more diversity.