Science to policy, science to management: Long-Term Ecological Research at Warra, Tasmania, Australia

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Presenter/Primary Author: 
Steve Read

The Warra Long-Term Ecological Research site in southern Tasmania was created to reflect the commitment of eight site partners to understanding the ecology of wet eucalypt forests as a necessary part of their management. The 15,900-ha site is adjacent to a major tourist facility (the Tahune airwalk) and contains both State Forest, managed for multiple use including timber production, and relatively inaccessible World Heritage Area.

Warra features six icon programs - a Silvicultural Systems Trial, a Wildfire Chronosequence Project, Stream Hydrology, Altitudinal Biodiversity Monitoring Plots, a Log-Decay Study, and anchor for an Experimental Forest Landscape that includes land with a greater degree of anthropogenic modification - all underpinned by a conceptual ecological model. The cumulative numbers of Warra projects and publications have both exceeded 150, with research now developing from taxonomy, silviculture and conservation biology (the "what", "where" and "when") to ecosystem processes, fluxes of carbon, water, nutrients and genes across the landscape (the "how").

The Warra Silvicultural Systems Trial has informed development of government policy in regard to variable-retention silviculture for old-growth wet eucalypt forests through providing a credible ecological context, willing dissemination of results to public and scientific communities with expert review, trials that balance replication with applicability, and capturing the results of on going research into time-relevant policy advice documents. Equally, extension of Warra Trial results to operational forest harvesting situations around Tasmania provides a case-study of adaptive management in practice, with adaptive monitoring giving efficient, progressive data input.

Future challenges for Warra include development of networks with other LTER sites, especially in regards to carbon fluxes and climate change; creation of sensor networks for intensive and extensive monitoring; and better utilisation for community education on forest ecology, forest management and global change.