Challenges for managing bats in the State Forests of New South Wales
Bradley S. Law, 2004. "Challenges for managing bats in the State Forests of New South Wales", Conservation of Australia's Forest Fauna, Daniel Lunney
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Bats have recently become an essential component of forest management in State Forests of NSW. A key driver has been research demonstrating that many species of bats prefer to roost in the hollows of large mature eucalypts and the 1990s listing of many bat species as threatened. Current bat management in State Forests of NSW is multi-pronged. Two “tiers” of management prescriptions are specified in the Threatened Species Licence issued under theNSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. The 1st tier comprises forest wide prescriptions (e.g. high conservation value old growth, rainforest, riparian buffer and habitat tree protection) that are designed to protect key fauna habitat across the landscape. These are augmented by the 2nd tier, which are specific prescriptions triggered by records of certain species from pre-logging surveys. Bat management at State Forests is also informed by strategic research that has improved our understanding of habitat requirements and tested aspects of logging impacts and the effectiveness of management prescriptions. This paper argues that the current emphasis on pre-logging surveys has improved our knowledge of the distribution of bats, but that this emphasis and the rigidity with which the conditions are specified limits real conservation outcomes for bats. This is due to a number of factors such as dispersing modest survey effort over large areas, basing decisions about where to survey on untested habitat models and targeting surveys on a small proportion of the total bat fauna. Most importantly, pre-logging surveys yield little data on the effectiveness of prescriptions designed to minimise potential impacts of logging, yet their implementation represents an opportunity cost for considering other options. I suggest an alternative approach that shifts survey effort away from pre-logging surveys to monitoring across tenure. Data are presented to indicate how much sampling effort would be required to adequately describe bat assemblages at a landscape scale. In conjunction with scientific research, monitoring would provide much needed data on the changing status of bats and a strong basis for assessing the effectiveness of management prescriptions. The Threatened Species Licence conditions for logging can be reviewed in 2005 and this provides an opportune time to advance the management of bats, and other fauna, in a scientific and cost-effective way.