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Rainforest

Rainforests are the vegetative remnants of Gondwana, the super continent that broke up about 65 million years ago. They once covered large parts of Australia but over millions of years had contracted and by the time Europeans colonised they had been reduced to about 1% of Australias land area. Today

CLOSED FOREST (defined as >70% foliage cover such as rainforest etc.) = 36 000 sq. kms or 0.4 % of our forest cover.

Victorias rainforests accounts for only 1% of Australias current rainforest cover (about 40,000 hectares).

Victoria has cool-temperate, warm-temperate and dry rainforest types. Rainforest is sensitive to disturbance and is therefore permanently changed after logging and does not recover at all in some situations.

Strezlecki Ranges

 In 1980 the Ecological Society of Australia defined rainforest as ...

"closed, broadleaved forest vegetation with a continuous tree canopy of variable height, and with a characteristic diversity of species and life forms. The ecological definition of RF includes transitional and seral communities with sclerophyll emergents that are of similar botanical composition to mature RFs in which sclerophylls are absent".

A DNRE technical committee subsequently recommended a similar definition but their report was altered by management to exclude areas with gum trees growing through the canopy. This means that while RFs effectively cover about 40,000 hectares only about 15,000 hectares receive the already limited and inadequate protection that the law and DNRE afford.

The overlapping area, or ecotone, between eucalypt and rainforest is a rare and rich biological resource. It seems obvious that the excluded 25,000 hectares of RF are not being protected because the eucalypt species protruding through the canopy are commercially valuable. In addition, RFs that are meant to be protected by 20 or 40 metre buffer zones frequently have their buffer zones breached. The cumulative effect of these policies and practices is to severely compromise the capacity for rainforests to survive in the long term.

Central Highlands

 Rainforest:

           occurs predominantly in riparian strips (along waterways).

           zones are not static, they expand and contract over time depending on varied influences such as fire and climate.

           has a dampening effect on bushfire. Wet RF gullies act as a buffer to advancing fires and can reduce their intensity.

           is fire sensitive. It recovers slowly from bushfire.

           suffers from the increased fire risk, drying effects and weed invasion associated with logging.

           in cool temperate zones is being severely affected by Myrtle wilt. A disease spread by mechanical disturbance.

 

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