Outcomes of a recent study by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) suggest koalas have a significant preference for larger trees and more mature forest, with populations found to be collapsing in recently logged areas.
“The government needs to immediately identify and protect the remaining koala colonies that live in mature forests threatened by logging,” said North Eastern Forestry Alliance (NEFA) spokesperson Dailan Pugh.
“Currently the NSW Forestry Corporation is allowed to log koala’s preferred feed trees … and this brings them closer to extinction. It has to stop now. We call on Premier Mike Baird to urgently intervene.”
The research by the EPA assessed koala populations in four north coast state forests. They found higher koala activity is “positively correlated with greater abundance and diversity of local koala feed trees, trees and forest structure of a more mature size, class, and areas of least disturbance”.
Also, It was revealed koala numbers are increasing in places where there was limited logging - as undertaken in Royal Camp and Carwong State Forests.
Conversely, heavy logging and burning of what should have been high quality koala habitat in Clouds Creek and Maria River State Forests has resulted in low koala occupancy and koala numbers appear to be declining.
“NEFA had to intervene to stop the NSW Forestry Corporation logging koala high-use areas in Royal Camp State Forest (south-west of Casino) in 2012, and again in 2013 when they tried to resume logging,” Mr Pugh said.
“It became evident that we had come across an exceptionally important area for koalas, but we were too late to stop half of it being logged. We proposed to the then Environment Minister, Rob Stokes, that Royal Camp and Carwong State Forests be permanently protected from logging as a National Park.
“The EPA considered that Carwong had the highest koala occupancy of any assessed area because it had escaped both wildfire and logging for 20 years.
“Conversely, Clouds Creek State Forest (south of Grafton, west of Coffs Harbour) should have had the highest quality habitat, but was found to have the lowest koala occupancy.
“The EPA attributed this to the high degree of disturbance by logging and fire. They considered it was now likely to be sink habitat where koalas would continue to decline.
“This is yet more evidence that logging is bad for koalas because it targets the larger trees they need to maintain healthy populations, and that their populations are collapsing in our public forests under the intensified logging now being practiced.”
Looking to what this means for the Bellingen Shire’s forests, Mr Pugh said the evidence that koalas generally do not like smaller trees (less than 30cm diameter), means trees are used more often the older they get.
“So it can be expected that koalas make less use of plantations, at least until they become old enough,” he said.
“The older they get the more use koalas would make of them - provided they are comprised of the limited number of species preferred by koalas … flooded gum (as found en masse in the hotly-debated Tarkeeth State Forest) is not a preferred feed tree.”
In the EPA study the primary koala feed trees were considered to be:
- Swamp mahogany
- Small fruited grey gum
- Forest red gum
- Slaty red gum
- Orange gum
- Grey gum
- Grey box