Researching Forest Birds through Acoustic Monitoring: A conservation priority group for developing biodiversity monitoring
By Tim McBride, Biodiversity Conservation and Research Manager
VicForests and Sustainable Timber Tasmania have recently commenced a research project using acoustic monitoring to collect and measure bird species diversity across Victorian and Tasmanian forests.
This project, which was launched in spring 2017 along with Birdlife Australia, is the first of many monitoring projects that will be used to develop more efficient models for landscape conservation strategies.
"A key objective of the study is to develop new and efficient ways to measure forest biodiversity and create new models to assess timber harvesting and biodiversity conservation relationships."
In this initial iteration of the project, Victorian and Tasmanian forest birds will be observed using acoustic monitors to record and identify bird calls over a range of forest types and age classes.
Acoustic monitors were chosen for this project as they have been identified as an efficient cost saving method that effectively captures observations of wildlife species.
The use of digital acoustic recorders offers the potential to overcome difficulties experienced with traditional surveys that rely on human observation.
Some of the constraints associated with traditional methods include;
- They rely on a very small pool of ornithologists with the necessary expertise, particularly of the wet forest birds
- There is high turnover in personnel which can introduce observer biases, potentially masking the effects of management that the surveys are attempting to measure.
Conversely, digital acoustic monitoring provides a permanent record of raw data that has no observer bias. The only bias is that of the identification of recorded calls, whether by experts listening to the calls, or computer algorithms automatically identifying calls from the digital data.
We will initially need to rely on experts to listen to bird calls as the computer algorithms required are not yet available for identifying Victorian forest birds, nor are there many examples of algorithms routinely used to identify calls elsewhere in the world.
This is however a developing field and rapid progress is being made. The project has attracted the expertise of an Associate Professor from the University of Tasmania and a PhD student who is focusing his dissertation towards developing and evaluating algorithms for identifying Tasmanian and Victorian birds from digital acoustic data.
"Information provided through effective research and monitoring programs are an important link in the cycle of adaptive management."
This information guides our continual improvement in processes that aim to iteratively improve resource management over time, while potentially influencing broader scale forest management policies (Possingham et al. 2012).
Research is a fundamental component of good forest management, as science-based decision making should be at the forefront when considering best forest management practices that retain ecologically important forest values. In a climate of diminishing resources across research agencies and academia, forestry management organisations and industries must not fail to be innovative or develop opportunities to conduct research in-house or participate collaboratively to support business goals and meet objectives.
VicForests and Sustainable Timber Tasmania are working in partnership with an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant project being led by the University of Tasmania in collaboration with Melbourne University that is evaluating new technologies for monitoring biodiversity.
VicForests Report Positive Operating Result
VicForests has achieved a positive profit from operations before tax of $1.5 million in 2016/17, highlighting the continued demand for native timber in Victoria.
This is a good result considering the operational challenges we have faced. The company’s result after tax was a loss of $3.2 million, due to a decrease in the accounting valuation of the area of State forest available to be harvested for timber .
VicForests Chief Executive Officer, Nathan Trushell, said he was pleased with the profit from operations, and that the loss after tax is the outcome of more forest being placed in reserves and not a reduction in demand for timber.
“Due to an increase in conservation efforts, areas previously available to us have been excluded from timber harvesting over the past year, Mr Trushell said.
“So while the value of the timber remains the same, there is less forest available to harvest and therefore the asset value is reduced.
“This is not a reflection of the excellent work our staff have done this year, which has generated a profit from our operations.
“VicForests has continued to strengthen our cash position and as a result of sales during the 2016/17 financial year we currently have no debt, he said.
Mr Trushell said that despite the decrease in area available to be harvested, the demand for timber remains strong.
“Demand for timber remains high in Victoria and Australia. The most recent report by Australian Forest and Wood Products Statistics indicates that Australia is importing more than $5 billion in wood products annually* to meet the demand we are unable to supply locally.
“The vast majority of Victoria’s native forests will never be harvested. Victoria has a truly world class forest parks and reserve system that covers an area the size of Tasmania."
“However, the forest is a dynamic environment, and so we must continue to evolve the way we implement conservation measures. Our staff passionately care about forests, that is why they have chosen to undertaken specialist degrees and spend their life working in the forest.
“We’re proud of the role our foresters play in helping to protect threatened species as part of managing a renewable resource for all Victorians,” he said.
Mr Trushell said that the native timber industry continued to make a significant contribution to the Victorian economy.
“Economic activity within the timber industry and demand for native hardwood remains high underscoring our contribution to the Victorian economy.
“The native timber industry contributes hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs to regional Victoria regional each year."
A study released by Deloitte Access Economics last year reported that the native timber industry in Victoria generated $573 million in economic activity during 2013/14 in the Central Highlands region alone.
“Beyond the impressive revenue number, native forestry supports the Victorian community by underpinning entire industries and many regional areas.
The report found that native forestry in this region creates full-time employment for more than 2,100 people,” Mr Trushell said.
Given the continued demand and positive developments in the sector, Mr Trushell was optimistic about the coming year.
“Our staff are hard at work in revising our forest management practices to adapt to the currently available resources. We intend to focus on our long-term financial sustainability while continuing to contribute to the growing demand for timber products in Victoria,” he said.
VicForests results are audited each year by the Victorian Auditor General’s Office.
Community Engagement Activities
VicForests has taken part in a range of community engagement activities over the past few months including local events, educational field trips and engaging with local communities around upcoming timber harvesting plans.
"Listening to the community ensures that we are aware of what is important to them, so that we can incorporate these things into our plans."
Some of the community events VicForests have attended recently include the Wandin Silvan Field Days where we spoke to numerous people about how we work in the forests and the Woori Yallock Kids festival which was a very well attended local event with over 300 people learning about how we regrow all areas we operate in with the same species of trees that was there prior.
VicForests also had a display at the recent Eildon and District Woodworkers Guild display in Alexandra and we led educational field trips with Baw Baw Shire and North Eastern Woodworkers.
The passion and knowledge of our staff helps to make these events successful and helps to spread our message to a wide audience. Our staff passionately care about forests, that is why they have chosen to undertaken specialist degrees and spend their life working in the forest.
VicForests have also continued to talk to local communities about planned harvesting operations, including in areas near Noojee and Mirboo North.
Timber harvesting delayed in an area in East Gippsland
VicForests has consented to delay harvesting in an area in East Gippsland until a hearing can be held in December which will provide an environmental group an opportunity to put forward a detailed case.
VicForests believes our operation comply with the regulatory framework governing timber harvesting in Victoria and we look forward to the court clarifying obligations in regards to this.
Parlimentary Inquiry Report tabled
A report regarding the Parliamentary Inquiry into VicForests forest management practices and procedures was tabled in Parliament in October with seven recommendations to the Victorian Government.
VicForests’ looks forward to the response from Government and will work in association with any recommendations adopted by Government.
VAFI Annual Dinner 2017
Every year the Victorian Association of Forest Industries (VAFI) hold an industry annual dinner to provide timber industry professionals the opportunity to network with colleagues.
VicForests is sponsoring the 2017 VAFI Annual Industry Dinner, which is being held on Friday, 17 November 2017.
We are looking forward to a night that celebrates all the hard work that has taken place across the Victorian timber industry in 2017.
For more details please visit - www.vafi.org.au/annualdinner2017/
Strong Government Stance On Illegal Logging Welcomed By Sustainable Australian Forest Industry
(Source: AFPA) The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) welcomes the Turnbull Government’s announcement that while it is staying tough on illegal logging, it continues to streamline and reform Australia’s illegal logging regulations for more effective compliance and fair trade. This is important, as a football field of forest is still being illegally cleared in overseas countries every two seconds (1) and it is estimated that up to 30% of the global trade in timber products is from illegal sources (2).
Outcomes from the “Reforming Australia’s Illegal Logging Regulations” Regulation Impact Statement process were announced today by Federal Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston.
"Illegal logging activities in overseas countries not only contribute to deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, they directly undermine the competitiveness of legitimate and sustainably sourced timber and paper products in Australia." Ross Hampton, CEO, AFPA
Australian major forestry operations are 100% independently certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) – nowhere is native forest or plantation management more sustainable. We look forward to continuing working with the Government to address this significant international problem.’
‘AFPA welcomes the Turnbull Government’s announcement to establish a new deemed-to-comply arrangement for independently certified products (such as PEFC or FSC) under the Illegal Logging Prohibition Regulation 2012. AFPA also noted that there was no change to the existing consignment value and inclusion of personal imports.’
‘The Illegal Logging regulations should be effective but not impose unnecessary red tape and compliance costs on Australian producers who are doing the right thing and already operate within a stringent legal and compliance framework for sustainable forest management in Australia.’
(1) World Bank 2012- Justice for Forests http://siteresources.worldbank.org/EXTFINANCIALSECTOR/Resources/Illegal_Logging.pdf
Celebrating 70 years of Fenning in the Timber Industry
(Source: VAFI) In September, Fenning Timbers celebrated reaching the milestone of 70 years in the forest, fibre, and wood products industry. More than 100 people gathered in Bairnsdale to celebrate the momentous occasion, including the Hon Darren Chester MP, Federal Member for Gippsland, and the Hon Tim Bull MP, Member for Gippsland East.
Mr Bull spoke to the contribution to the local economy and community, and how important a business like Fenning Bairnsdale is to the regional community. Minister Chester highlighted the achievements of the Fenning family over the years, and spoke about how the business, especially Leonard Fenning, are champions of the industry. The afternoon was a great occasion for the Fenning family, and a well deserved celebration.
The Fenning name is synonymous with the forest, fibre and wood products and the family have been producers of quality timber products for over four generations. Beginning in NSW, before coming south to Victoria, the family have been at the forefront of innovation, and health and safety in the industry.
VAFI CEO, Tim Johnston, said that Leonard, the Fenning family, and the whole team at Fenning Bairnsdale are to be commended for their investment in the business,. The continuous investment in the business will benefit the Victorian economy by ensuring the future processing of Victoria’s resource is done using the best technology available within the hardwood sawmilling industry.
“Whist we celebrate the past, it is encouraging to see that the future of the industry is in great hands. Fenning Bairnsdale are doing great work that will help make our industry sustainable long term in the manufacturing of timber products," he said.