Pacific Conservation Biology Pacific Conservation Biology Society
A journal dedicated to conservation and wildlife management in the Pacific region.
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Can ecological thinning deliver conservation outcomes in high-density river red gum forests? Establishing an adaptive management experiment

E. J. Gorrod A H , P. Childs A , D. A. Keith A B , S. Bowen A , M. Pennay A , T. O’Kelly A , R. Woodward A B C , A. Haywood D E , J. P. Pigott F and C. McCormack F G
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage, PO Box 1967, Hurstville, NSW 1481, Australia.

B Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological Earth and Environmental Sciences, Building D26, University of New South Wales, NSW 2052, Australia.

C School of Environmental Sciences, Charles Sturt University, PO Box 789, Albury, NSW 2640, Australia.

D Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, 8 Nicholson Street, East Melbourne, Vic. 3002, Australia.

E Present address: European Forest Institute, c/o Embassy of Finland to Malaysia, 258 Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

F Parks Victoria, PO Box 3100, Bendigo, Vic. 3550, Australia.

G Present address: Freerunning Enterprises, 19 Towers Street, Flora Hill, Vic. 3550, Australia.

H Corresponding author. Email: emma.gorrod@environment.nsw.gov.au

Pacific Conservation Biology 23(3) 262-276 https://doi.org/10.1071/PC16040
Submitted: 8 December 2016  Accepted: 7 May 2017   Published: 5 July 2017

Abstract

Newly protected areas often have land-use legacies that affect their capacity to deliver conservation outcomes into the future. The management actions required to achieve conservation outcomes may be uncertain. This uncertainty may be resolved through experimental adaptive management that draws on knowledge of the ecology and history of the ecosystem. In New South Wales, Australia, river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) floodplain forests were gazetted as National Park in 2010, including Murray Valley National Park. Land-use legacies had resulted in one-third of river red gum forests and woodlands occurring as high-stem-density (>400 stems ha−1) stands at the time of gazettal. High-stem-density stands are characterised by dominance of narrow straight trees, a paucity of large and hollow-bearing trees, modified understorey vegetation and reduced coarse woody debris. A simple state-and-transition process model captured knowledge of the processes that led to the high-stem-density river red gum forest state being widespread. We describe the establishment of a manipulative experiment to evaluate whether ecological thinning can achieve conservation outcomes in high-stem-density stands of river red gum floodplain forest. The experiment was designed to reduce intrastand competition for water and other resources, and encourage development of spreading tree crowns. Future results will inform management decisions in high-stem-density stands of river red gum floodplain forests. The adaptive management approach employed provides a template for using knowledge of the ecosystem to resolve uncertainty about management, particularly in newly protected areas.

Additional keywords: biodiversity conservation, ecological thinning, ecosystem processes, environmental management, forests, land-use legacy, restoration thinning


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