The rainforests of north-east NSW have been ravaged by both fire and drought leaving animals packed into the remaining areas.
‘The NSW government’s mapping of fire extent and canopy scorch shows that some 160,000 hectares (35 per cent) of north-east NSW’s 462,000ha of rainforests were burnt last fire season,’ said North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) spokesperson Dailan Pugh.
In light of the devastating impacts that the fire and drought NEFA are calling on the NSW government to immediately protect 50m buffers around rainforest and an urgent weed control program in and adjacent to burnt stands.
‘It is tragic that over a third of these priceless relicts burnt in one year. Across the fire-grounds most leaf litter, logs and under-storey plants were burnt, along with their inhabitants. Many tree bases were damaged,’ said Mr Pugh.
‘Most worrying is the significant loss of large canopy trees, hundreds of years old, across 125,000ha of rainforests, with 34,000ha of these losing most canopy trees. Some stands are unlikely to ever recover.’
These rainforest remnants are all that is left of the rainforests that once covered Australia 70m years ago when it was still part of the supercontinent of Gondwana.
‘The relatively small remnants left are packed with survivors from the ancient forests. Rainforests now cover only about 0.25 per cent of Australia, yet they contain about half of our plant species and a third of our mammals and birds,’ pointed out Mr Pugh.
‘The exceptional importance of NSW’s rainforests is recognised by parts being created as the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area.
Rainforests provide protection
‘With climate heating increasing droughts, temperatures, heatwaves and extreme fire weather, many of our relictual rainforests are under a looming threat to their continued existence.
‘If we want them to survive they need to be treated with some care and respect. Rainforest buffers are essential to maintain moist rainforest microclimates and reduce fire threat.
‘If our rainforests are to survive this climate emergency the NSW government needs to protect their buffers. As a minimum, 50m buffers (one tree height) should be applied around all mapped rainforest stands from which logging and clearing are excluded. Weeds and debris from past logging need to be removed from these buffers.
‘The intensity of the fires has killed lantana over large areas, creating an opportunity to control it before it takes over again. This opportunity must be capitalised on if we want to increase the resilience of rainforests’ said Mr Pugh.