THREATENED species have been found in the forests earmarked for logging near Mirboo North.
Greater Gliders and Powerful Owls, both threatened, call the coupes homes, while the genetically distinct Strzelecki koala thrives in the area.
Since October, after the State Government-owned logging company VicForests announced its plans, Preserve our Forests Mirboo North and district volunteers, with the help of local experts and naturalist groups, have undertaken ecological surveys of the three Mirboo North logging coupes.
Historical data and local anecdotal observations allowed the team to target the surveys.
Susan Koci, Preserve our Forests Biodiversity Survey coordinator, said Mirboo North has uniquely diverse native forests that are an asset to all of South Gippsland.
“The greatest threat to all species is habitat loss. By logging these forests and removing critical habitat, we are reducing resource availability, altering natural territories, reducing genetic diversity and increasing competition for remaining resources.
“Our team and the Latrobe Valley Field Naturalists have confirmed anecdotal sightings of Greater Gliders (Petauroides volans volans) by observing these remarkable creatures during night surveys.”
Greater Gliders are classified as a Victorian ‘threatened’ species and are federally-listed as ‘vulnerable’ Matters of National Environmental Significance.
Greater Gliders are the largest gliding possum with thick fur, large furry ears and a long tail.
They den in tree hollows and forage at night for eucalypt leaves (like a koala).
“Despite governmental recognition that these animals are threatened/vulnerable and populations are profoundly impacted by forest clearance, there are no mandatory protection measures to protect Greater Gliders from the impacts of logging in Gippsland,” Susan said.
“We have found Mirboo North’s native forests to be functioning, viable ecosystems representative of the once extensive Gippsland forest.
“Our vegetation survey team have identified over 200 plant species, some of which are locally and regionally significant.
“We have been excited by the diversity of plants (including orchids) that indicate how special and important these forests are.”
Bird observers have also volunteered, taking a close look in the coupes and providing lists of observations.
One bird-watcher was surprised by the apparent diversity of birds after observing 40 species in a few hours of surveying.
Records show a regionally significant population of Powerful Owls (Ninox strenua), classified ‘threatened’ under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.
Surveys will commence in their breeding season.
Susan said Strzelecki koalas living in Mirboo North’s forests are also under threat from logging, with no protection measures required in Gippsland.
Federation University released findings that the DNA of South Gippsland (Strzelecki) koalas shows that these animals are genetically distinct and more diverse than other Victorian koalas.
“Greater genetic diversity increases the potential survivability of a species when faced with pressures such as disease and climate change.
“Therefore to aid their long-term survival we need to retain the habitat of these iconic and important koalas.
“South Gippsland has only a few small and isolated native forests, only 1.5 per cent of the Strzelecki Ranges forest remains.
“Habitat loss and fragmentation has confined native species to small ‘islands’ that some of our landholders and community members are working to ‘reconnect’.”
Preserve our Forests & District Steering Committee chair Marg Thomas encourages those concerned about the logging plans to write to the Energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio and Premier Daniel Andrews and request they intervene to stop the impending logging of these forests.
“They need to recognise that the small, isolated forests of Mirboo North and district are of critical ecological importance.”
* Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, the Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio MP; email lily.d’email@example.com or mail Level 17, 8 Nicholson Street, East Melbourne, Vic 3002
* The Premier, The Hon. Daniel Andrews MP; email: firstname.lastname@example.org or mail Office of the Premier, 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne, Vic 3002.
Threatened species in endangered forests