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The Forest Practices Authority

FPA research and monitoring

FPA specialists have expertise in forest practices, the development and implementation of codes of practice, cultural heritage, botany, geomorphology, soil and water science, and zoology. The specialists carry out monitoring and research, often in collaboration with other researchers, to ensure that forest practices meet the objectives of the Forest Practices Act 1985 and associated policy and legislation. The scientific knowledge gathered is essential for underpinning and improving the Forest Practices Code and its supporting planning tools.

The Tasmanian forest practices system works in an adaptive management framework. The Forest Practices Code contains policies and practices that have been developed from a mixture of expert judgement, practical experience and the outcomes of research and monitoring by both the FPA and other organisations. The FPA conducts research and monitoring within the following programs:

Student opportunities for research and monitoring exist within these programs, with some funding available for certain research topics.

The results of previous research, which can be found in a range of publications, have helped improve management practices. 

Adaptive Management

Management practices often need to be developed under varying levels of uncertainty, meaning an adaptive management approach is required. Adaptive management is the process of iteratively refining and improving management prescriptions, using the results of research and monitoring that target the areas of uncertainty. It is widely recognised that research and monitoring is essential for adaptive management and to provide a scientific basis for management prescriptions. The FPA has a legislative requirement to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of the provisions within forest practices plans. The current process for the development, review and continual improvement of the provisions of the Forest Practices Code can be found here.

The principles followed under the Tasmanian forest practices system to achieve adaptive management are broadly outlined below:

  • gathering published and unpublished information, research and expert opinion
  • developing new management prescriptions and  revision of existing prescriptions
  • seeking comment from stakeholders on proposed new management prescriptions and associated supporting tools
  • seeking advice on new or revised management prescriptions from relevant expert committees (e.g. Threatened Species Scientific Advisory Council and Forest Practices Advisory Council)
  • conducting training and education programs to inform managers and FPOs of new prescriptions and planning tools
  • implementing management prescriptions
  • monitoring compliance with management prescriptions (implementation monitoring)
  • monitoring whether or not the management prescriptions are achieving  their objective (effectiveness monitoring)
  • conducting additional research to improve understanding of the natural and cultural value being managed and its threats
  • reviewing and improving the management prescriptions and their effectiveness in light of research and monitoring findings.

Priority research areas

The overall aim of the FPA's research and monitoring programs is to support continual improvement of the Forest Practices Code's natural and cultural value provisions, and to evaluate the effectiveness of Forest Practices Code provisions.

While general research priorities are determined by the Regional Forest Agreement and the Forest Practices Code, more specific priorities are determined in thematic reviews such as the review of the biodiversity provisions of the Forest Practices Code and by regional and local issues such as land stability concerns. These specific priorities are often the drivers of individual projects. Also taken into account during the development of projects are research priorities identified by other bodies, (e.g. CRC for Forestry for which FPA is a Supporting Partner), opportunities for collaboration, and resources.

The Forest Practices Authority's Research Working Group, comprising representatives from each of the FPA research and advisory programs, has developed a list of priority research and monitoring topics categorised into the following three general areas (A, B, C).

A. Monitoring the implementation of Forest Practices Code provisions

Implementation monitoring is used to assess the degree of compliance with processes, planning tools and management prescriptions in forest practices plans and to ascertain whether higher standards can be achieved through improved training, education or planning tools. Such monitoring is predominantly carried out by the FPA Compliance Program, in collaboration with the research and advisory programs.

B. Monitoring the effectiveness of Forest Practices Code provisions

Effectiveness monitoring is used to determine whether the management prescriptions specified have achieved their objective or desired outcome and whether the prescriptions can be improved over time on the basis of new knowledge and experience.

C. Research on the occurrence and conservation status of natural and cultural values and the potential and actual impact of forest management on these values.

Research on the occurrence, conservation status and impact of forest practices on natural and cultural values is required for the development and continual improvement of management prescriptions. Scientific research and baseline monitoring has long-term management implications through improving knowledge about the forest estate, but is not necessarily done in response to any event or management action. The information gained can be used to anticipate future issues, to provide critical data in the event of some major disturbance, for the development of regional management plans, or as reference data for assessing the effectiveness of management actions.

Priority FPA research and monitoring topics

  • monitoring the implementation of Forest Practices Code fauna and flora provisions 
  • distribution, ecology and impacts of forestry practices (in native forests and plantations) on flora and fauna species of high conservation significance, and their habitats
  • value of headwater streams and impacts (intensity, duration and extent) of forestry practices on stream values
  • special values and management of mature forest habitat, in particular issues relating to retention of tree hollows for hollow using fauna
  • management of special values risks associated with extensive plantations at the local catchment and landscape levels
  • values and management of retained habitat (remnants, wildlife habitat strips, habitat clumps, streamside reserves, cultural heritage reserves, karst reserves)
  • review distribution of forest and non-forest vegetation with a priority for conservation - remapping of vegetation communities
  • rehabilitation of riparian areas for the maintenance of 'special' values including aboriginal heritage values
  • sustainable management of tree ferns (Dicksonia antarctica) and their role in forest ecosystems
  • assessing the present land stability and karst impacts in relation to recent and ancient human activity
  • integration of cultural landscape values, particularly of rural regions, and visual landscape concerns.

The FPA's Biodiversity and Earth Sciences and Cultural Heritage programs, in collaboration with researchers from other organisations, are currently undertaking a number of projects relating to these topics. The forest industry is committed to forest practices research and provides study sites (coupes/ catchments), and funding to supplement grants obtained from other sources. The progress of these projects and related management outcomes can be followed in Forest Practices News articles and in the FPA's  annual reports, available on the publications page.

Other relevant forest research organisations and collaborators

An annotated list of the organisations that undertake or have undertaken research relevant to forest practices, or are collaborating with the FPA, is given below. Many of the agencies have dual roles in that they fund research as well as providing research services. This funding may go totally towards internal research programs, as in the case of the universities, whereas some of the government agencies in particular also fund outsourced research.

State government agencies and statutory authorities

Forestry Tasmania/Forestry Commission
Inland Fisheries Service
Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE)
Commonwealth Government
Mineral Resources Tasmania
Arthur Rylah Institute (Victoria)
Department of Primary Industries NSW


University of Tasmania
University of Melbourne
Australian National University
LaTrobe University
Queensland University
University of Exeter, United Kingdom
University of Auckland

Cooperative Research Centres

CRC for Sustainable Production Forestry (1997-2005)
CRC for Forestry (2005-current)
CSIRO bushfire research

Other institutions and private consultants

Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
Tasmanian Aboriginal Land and Sea Council
Freshwater Systems
NRM South
NRM Cradle Coast
NRM North

Content last modified September 16, 2013, 2:53 pm