New research discovers preferred habitat and greater persistence for Leadbeater’s Possum
The use of the latest LiDAR technology, coupled with improved detection methods, is leading to a greater understanding of species habitats.
Recent research led by VicForests has found that the Leadbeater’s Possum has a strong preference for forests with high densities of mid-storey connectivity. The research shows that the best mid-storey connectivity exists in forests that are 20 to 30 years old and often consist of acacia and eucalypt regrowth trees. The connectivity increases in the years following disturbance, such as wildfire or after harvest, but starts to decrease after about 30 years, with lower levels in forests older than 50 years.
Midstorey vs Stand Age graph:
This graph shows the dynamic of midstorey connectivity on forest stand age. Midstorey connectivity increases very quickly in young regenerating forest. The best midstorey connectivity may occur in 15-year-old forest (Example: 15 years since last harvest or fire disturbance on the forest crown).
This is also shown in the lower number of Leadbeater’s possum detections in older undisturbed forests which were previously considered critical habitat and the increasingly higher numbers found in younger regrowth forests.
Older survey techniques, and earlier understandings of preferred habitat have likely led to an understatement of population numbers.
This research, conducted in conjunction with the University of Melbourne, underpins our commitment to sustainable forest management and preservation of the state’s wonderful wildlife.
Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) 2020:
The left graph shows the relationship between habitat suitability for Leadbeater’s Possum and plant area volume density at different canopy vertical layers. The right graph depicts the LiDAR canopy profile image of the Leadbeater’s Possum presence sites. According to the left figure, Leadbeater’s Possums prefer a dense layer at 10-15 metres in height. This is represented by the dark green points in the right graph. Leadbeater’s Possums also prefer relatively open forest canopies at a height of 25-30 metres. This is represented by the purple points in the right graph.
VicForests’ post-harvest surveys show efficacy of new harvesting and regeneration practices for wildlife
VicForests’ post-harvest monitoring program has shown its variable retention harvesting systems are better protecting wildlife as species are found to persist within and around its completed harvest areas.
This research was conducted over a two-year period to assess the persistence of arboreal species, such as the Leadbeater’s Possum and Greater Glider, after harvesting and regeneration operations had been completed.
It found Greater Gliders persisting in almost all surveyed areas, and the preservation of suitable habitat trees and future habitat trees provided another valuable habitat source for other hollow dependant species.
Barjarg Flat post harvest detections
This map shows the post harvest detections of the Barjarg Flat Post coupe which was harvested using a 60% retention system.
The research also discovered Leadbeater’s Possums in five-year-old post-harvesting regrowth and nesting in Silver Wattle hollows.
In addition to preserving habitat such as hollow-bearing trees, our variable retention harvesting systems also better cater for wildlife and flora by increasing forest connectivity throughout the harvest area.
VicForests, and our team of forest experts are passionate about their work, and these findings highlight our commitment to protect Victoria’s precious flora and fauna.