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The Forest Practices Authority

The Earth Sciences Program

The objective of the Earth Sciences program in the FPA is to ensure that forest operations do not result in unacceptable rates of soil or stream erosion and that water quality and stream flows are maintained at acceptable levels. The program also seeks to improve the protection and management of geological heritage sites within forests, including the extensive and land-use sensitive karst systems (caves, related landforms and subsurface water flows) found in calcareous rocks.

The FPA's earth scientists seek to achieve these objectives in three ways:

  • provision of high-quality advice to Forest Practices Officers (FPOs) who prepare forest practices plans
  • running training courses for FPOs
  • conducting research and monitoring to promote improved understanding and management of forest soils, geological and water values.


The Earth Science program provides advice to Forest Practices Officers (FPOs) by responding to enquiries received through the formal notification system. Many of these enquiries require coupe inspections with the FPO planning harvest and reforestation. Enquiries and notifications are received on topics as diverse as landslide risk, soil and stream erosion, sites of geological significance such as moraines or fossil localities, and occurrence of karst landforms including caves. Some notifications involve close cooperation with specialists in other disciplines.

The Soil and Water scientist in the FPA Earth Sciences program worked together with an FPO to devise prescriptions that would protect eroding streams in a coupe in the Huon River catchment (see image on right), and at the same time provide habitat for the little Denison crayfish, the Mt Mangana stag beetle and two eagle nests nearby. The plan involved harvest of native forest in sections (see photograph) separated by wide streamside reserves, as well as large reserves around eagle nests.

Further information about the detailed planning of this coupe can be found at: FPA fps Huon field day March 2011 and McIntosh and Ware 2008 coupe planning

copyright FPA
The coupe in the Huon River catchment - see left for details.
copyright FPA
The Earth Sciences' Geoscientist explains the regional geology to Forest Practices Officers who attended a course in Tasmanian geology at Tullah on the west coast.


The program also trains FPOs to help them use tools developed for land-use assessments, such as the Guidelines for the protection of Class 4 streams and the Forest sinkhole manual. In addition it conducts training courses to improve general knowledge, for example, courses in rock identification and geological processes. Other field days are on specialist topics like how to construct road batters in highly erodible soils in order to limit erosion.

Research and monitoring

The third function of the Earth Sciences program is to conduct research and monitoring to support development of the Forest Practices Code, to keep ahead of current issues, and to monitor effectiveness of the code and specialist prescriptions. Current and recent research includes documenting the erosion history of Tasmania, investigation of rock formations on Blue Tier, the stability of ancient landslides in dolerite terrain and identification of low-altitude glacial deposits in the Picton Valley and on the west coast.

The Earth Sciences program also supports the Chief Forest Practices Officer and other programs of the FPA where necessary, for example by providing expert evidence in Tribunal cases, assisting with the investigation of complaints, developing the Forest Practices Code, and improving public awareness on how the forest practices system works. It also works with other government agencies to improve scientific knowledge, for example, by providing new information to update the Tasmanian Geoconservation Database curated by DPIPWE.

copyright FPA
FPO Terry Ware (TJ Ware Forest Consultants) explains to government departmental staff, NRM groups and Huon District councillors how a forest practices plan is designed and put into practice.

Content last modified September 19, 2011, 3:03 pm