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Can ecological thinning deliver conservation outcomes in high density River Red Gum forests? Establishing an adaptive management experiment.
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, new River Red Gum 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 (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) forests and woodlands occurring as high stem density (>400 stems per hectare) 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 intra-stand 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.
PC16040 Accepted 07 May 2017
© CSIRO 2017