Australian scientists study land from Victoria's Ash Mountain forests that supply water to Melbourne. (Chris Taylor)
Australian scientists have found that forest land takes up to eight decades to recover from forest fires and logging, not just 10 or 15 years.
Their findings can change the way forests are managed, with implications for climate change and forest sustainability.
Scientists study soil from the Mount Ash Victoria forest that supplies water to all Melbourne residents.
Forest fires have always been inevitable from the Australian summer.
"At least 30 years after logging, and at least 80 years after the fire," said David Lindenmayer, who is part of a team that studies forest land regeneration.
David Lindenmayer, Professor of Ecology at the Australian National University, told The World Today that the timeframe for restoring this land was "a very conservative estimate and we suspect that it might be much longer … potentially up to 150 years".
The study found that soil can take up to 30 years to recover after logging and at least 80 years after forest fires. (ABC News: Ashleigh Stevenson)
"These results are very significant for many reasons. First of all, this shows that when we think of sustainable forest management we must think not only about trees and the rest of the forest including biodiversity, but now we also have to think deeply about land," he said.
Land can determine how quickly the forest grows, the level of carbon in the forest and how much carbon is set or released from the soil, explained Professor Lindenmayer.
"This has implications for climate change, has sustainability implications, and has implications for how we manage these important resources," he said.
Professor Lindenmayer's research shows that when there is a big insult to land – such as burning or logging – many important nutrients are lost.
"What is suggested is that we need a wider area of undisturbed forest, which is not disturbed by fires and logging to ensure that we maintain the health of this system," said Professor Lindenmayer.
The researchers found that the soil loses a lot of important nutrients when forests experience major disturbances such as logging and burning. (Wikimedia: Patche99z)
"Now this is really important in the case of the Mountain Abu Forest outside Melbourne, because as a result of fires and logging and a combination of both, 98.8 percent of the total forest system that supplies most of the water to Melbourne is now 80 years or younger.
"There will be a significant effect of fires and logging on the land, right in the whole forest."
David Lindenmayer said that the Victorian Government needed to move to preserve Melbourne's forests and water supply "and look more deeply at how to manage these forests and set aside more protected areas freed from major disturbances such as logging and fire".
"There is a direct solution to this & # 39;
Ecologist David Lindenmayer said the Victorian Government needed to move to preserve Melbourne's forests and water supplies. (Justin Huntsdale: ABC local)
Professor Lindenmayer told The World Today that "almost all wood from this forest is used to make paper" and the solution is to use plantation raw materials rather than native forest wood.
"We will not lose a job, in fact it will grow the forest industry to be bigger than now, but use plantation raw materials, rather than using native forests," he said.
Vic Forests is a state-owned business that is responsible for harvesting, commercial sales, and replanting wood from Victorian state forests on behalf of the Government.
Alex Messina, general manager of corporate affairs, told The World Today that Vic Forests had not consulted about the research, and showed that this research was "research on forest fires, not logging".
"In the last decade there have been around 3 million hectares of forest burning in Victoria, compared to harvest, which is around 3,000 hectares a year, or if you like 30,000 [hectares] more than 10 years.
"That means that the impact of logging is around 1 percent – basically, this is fire research, not about harvesting, and in any case he finds that the harvesting effect is much less."
Vic Forests said that in the last decade around 3 million hectares of forest were burned in Victoria compared to 30,000 hectares harvested. (Raoul Wegat: AAP)
Mr Messina said that the state has preserved a large area of conservation with 94 percent of public forest being reserved as national parks or state reservations that "can never be harvested".
"We only harvest anywhere in the 6 percent area, and even in the 6 percent area we harvest a small amount of forest – around 3,000 hectares a year, or 0.04 percent of Victoria's public forests," he said.
"There are four trees in 10,000 per year affected by harvesting across Victoria's public forest landscape."