, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 1187-1211

Stand-level management of plantations to improve biodiversity values

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Abstract

As conservation reserves expand, the likelihood that they will capture areas degraded by previous land use increases. Ecological restoration of such areas will therefore play an increasing role in biodiversity conservation. On the New South Wales North Coast, recent expansion in the conservation estate has captured over 300 softwood and hardwood plantations, many with understoreys dominated by exotic weeds. Here we present an overview of the practices we have adopted in managing flooded gum (Eucalyptus grandis) plantations infested with lantana (Lantana camara) to enhance their biodiversity value. Experiments designed to overcome barriers limiting regeneration of native forest in conjunction with measurement of soil and plant responses yielded insights into the management of former timber plantations for biodiversity. Canonical Correspondence Analysis indicated that the level of canopy retention (or logging intensity) within sites consistently explained the greatest amount of variation in plant community composition (32–38% post-treatment). Thinning and burning stimulated regeneration of native species. Retained canopy cover was proportional to the richness or abundance of native woody shrubs, understorey trees and native perennial herbs, indicating that management intensity can be varied to promote a range of conservation values. A state-and-transition model summarising purported management actions and likely outcomes for these plantations is presented. This is the first time plantations have been managed solely for biodiversity. Logging income means that plantation restoration can be cost-neutral, and the positive influence of a cover crop of trees means that plantation management may generally be manipulated to promote biodiversity conservation.