The Coastal IFOA research and evaluation program provides the monitoring program the opportunity to respond to changes to environmental conditions, policy, knowledge or technology and provide a program to investigate best practice forest management and monitoring.
The proposed suite of research projects will highlight risks and find better ways the conditions and protocols of the Coastal IFOA can achieve their outcomes. The initial research questions the program seeks to answer are:
- How are koalas responding to conditions, including changes in tree retention rates, species, distribution and size?
- Can technology improve the probability of detection for a range of species and habitats in forestry operations?
- What are the implications of changing fire intensity and regimes on the achievement of the Coastal IFOA’s objectives and outcomes?
Koala response to harvesting
Researchers at the Australian National University, Western Sydney University and the Forest Science Unit at the NSW Department of Primary Industries are investigating how koalas, and their habitat are responding to harvesting in state forests on the NSW North Coast.
In 2018, the NSW Government asked the Commission to oversee this independent research program. It will inform the effectiveness of conditions to protect koalas under the IFOA monitoring program.
More information on the program can found on the Koala Research page.
Implications of changing fire intensity and regimes
University of Wollongong has been engaged to undertake an evaluation of the risk of Coastal IFOA objectives and outcomes not being achieved due to changing fire regimes. The University of Wollongong team will evaluate:
- the specific risks to achieving the Coastal IFOA objectives and outcomes as result of the legacy landscape scale impacts of the NSW 2019/20 wildfire season
- the broad implications of predicted changing fire regimes on the achievement of the Coastal IFOA’s objectives and outcomes
- options to mitigate risks.
The results of the evaluation are expected by March 2021.
Independent evaluation of forestry practices
The proposed suite of evaluations will determine the effectiveness of the practices used in coastal native hardwood state forest in NSW.
Drainage feature crossings and roading
The program will adapt existing methods for assessing the effectiveness of road networks in forestry operations as, for example, outlined in Croke and Mockler (2001). This method uses remote imagery and surveys to assess the hydrological connectivity of the road and stream networks. Alluvium and the NSW Soil Conservation Services have been engaged to assist the Commission with this evaluation.
Pre- and post-harvest burning
The program will evaluate the effectiveness of the burn plan approval conditions, such as, seasonal timing, fire return interval, control lines, burn prescriptions, in maintaining environmentally significant areas, habitat clumps and retained hollow-bearing trees so they continue to provide short-term refuge to forest-dependent fauna species.
Species and habitat survey and modelling conditions and practices
The program will evaluate the effectiveness of species and habitat survey and modelling conditions and practices used in the Coastal IFOA. Specifically, this evaluation will establish if the current methods are adequate to mitigate the impacts of forestry operations on flora and fauna species and their habitat.