MEDIA RELEASE 2 February 2024
The NSW Government’s decision to abandon the requirement to identify and establish logging exclusions around the homes of Southern Greater Gliders and other threatened hollow-dependent species is another blow to their survival.
This decision attempts to over-ride the current legal requirement to identify and protect 50m around den trees of Southern Greater Glider, Yellow-bellied Glider, Squirrel Glider and Brush-tailed Phascogale, along with nest trees for Masked, Sooty and Barking Owls, NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.
“The homes of these hollow-dependent nocturnal species can only be identified in nocturnal searches.
“The political deal done between the EPA and the Forestry Corporation removes the need for nocturnal searches, instead requiring the retention of 4-6 additional mature trees per hectare in modelled greater glider habitat.
“The current requirement to retain eight hollow-bearing trees per hectare already can’t be met in most logged coastal forests (1), so requiring the retention of a few additional trees will be of limited benefit to hollow-dependent species.
“The alarming loss of hollow-bearing trees in the 2019/20 wildfires requires that we should be protecting all remaining hollow-bearing trees for the 174 NSW species that depend upon them, and restoring them across the landscape by retaining the biggest remaining trees to develop into future hollow-bearing trees.
“This deal does not even comply with the Natural Resources Commission’s recommendation to the NSW Government to retain the next biggest trees to restore 8 hollow-bearing trees per hectare where required, and for each of these to retain two large recruitment trees – an additional 16 mature trees per hectare (1).
“Contrary to the EPA’s claims, protecting a few additional trees does not increase habitat protection compared to identifying and protecting 50m around their homes”
“Allowing logging around den and nest trees is grossly irresponsible. Wide buffers are needed to provide mature trees for foraging, additional den trees, future hollow-bearing trees, and to buffer trees from wind throw (2). Logging destroys the forest around animal’s homes, while machines damage the roots and trunks of retained trees.
“While the Forestry Corporation have proven they are unwilling and incapable of identifying greater glider den trees, conservation groups have identified dozens in recent months, proving that they can be found. This emphasises the need for independent searches.
“Given the alarming decline of greater gliders (2), leading to their listing as Endangered, in the absence of competent den tree searches, 100m buffers (3ha) should be protected around all records of greater gliders as this would more likely protect their home ranges and the multiple den trees essential for their survival” (3) Mr. Pugh said.
(1) The Natural Resources Commission (NRC 2021 p126) recommended to the NSW Government:
… there is evidence that trees retained on logged sites have higher rates of mortality and collapse than trees in comparable unlogged sites and the mortality and collapse of trees retained in logged sites increases with logging intensity and the severity of post-logging fire
… Advice received from the EPA and FCNSW during this review indicates that in some forests hollow bearing trees do not exist at [eight hollow-bearing trees per hectare] and the resource may be limited or non-existent. Our review also suggests that after the extensive and severe fires the hollow-bearing tree resource is at risk of loss.
The Commission has proposed temporary additional measures relating to hollow-bearing trees and recruitment trees for medium and high-risk zones. However, the Commission considers the following measures could also enhance the standard Coastal IFOA prescriptions:
- retain a minimum of eight hollow-bearing trees per hectare where they exist (as per the requirement in the standard Coastal IFOA prescriptions)
- if hollow-bearing trees are not available, then retain suitable substitutes, in priority order being, potential future hollow-bearing trees, the largest mature tree in the stand or a regrowth tree that is not suppressed
- retain two recruitment trees per retained hollow-bearing tree
(2) The Conservation Advice for greater glider (DCCEEW 2022 ) identifies the loss of hollow-bearing trees and recruitment trees, both directly and indirectly due to logging, as key threats:
Large hollow-bearing trees are in rapid decline in some landscapes (Lindenmayer et al. 2017a,b) primarily due to timber production practices and bushfires that prevent trees growing to an age when they might produce hollows (Lunney 1987; Lindenmayer et al. 2018b). Site-level, tree-level (e.g. size, extent of decay) and landscape factors all appear to influence the rate of collapse of hollow-bearing trees. Lindenmayer et al. (2018a) found that the probability of collapse of hollow-bearing trees in remnant 1 ha patches increased with an increasing amount of logged or burned areas in the surrounding landscape (within a 2 km radius), most likely due to altered wind patterns from a reduction in forest cover. The decline in hollow-bearing trees is a concern for recovery as the greater glider is dependent on this habitat feature, and the development of hollows in suitable tree species can take over a century (Mackowski 1984).
(3) Greater Gliders have home ranges of usually 1-4 ha, within which they utilise 4-20 different den trees (DCCEEW 2022).