Advice on how to minimise potential negative impacts on threatened species of removing or cutting back both native and introduced plants of any size, from trees to grasses, both dead and alive
What do we mean?
The cutting and clearing of trees and other vegetation can have an impact on threatened species. This activity can take many forms, from the total removal of all above-ground vegetation, to the selective removal of individual plants or even parts of plants from trees to grasses. Activities such as slashing and mowing are examples of clearing parts of the vegetation without necessarily removing whole plants. This activity also includes the removal of dead plant material such as dead stags (often with hollows suitable for hollow-nesting birds and mammals), rotting logs from the forest floor, and leaf litter.
General points to consider
- Cutting-back or clearing vegetation is not always a bad thing, and some plants and some native animals benefit when vegetation is cut back or cleared.
- However, in many cases native vegetation and native fauna are negatively impacted by inappropriate levels of cutting-back and clearing.
- Clearing of vegetation is the most widespread and serious threat to threatened plants and animals.
- Blanket clearing of vegetation can occur during subdivision development, when ‘tidying-up’ suburban bush blocks, during forestry operations, and when clearing for agriculture.
- Vegetation clearing followed by conversion, for example to pasture, cropland or plantation, leads to the loss of native habitat.
- Clearing of vegetation can lead to 'knock-on' effects, including fragmentation of habitat, soil erosion and soil compaction, and increased input of sediment into waterways.
- Clearing of vegetation can lead to the spread of weeds by opening up areas of bare soil for weed seeds to germinate, and decreased competition from native species.
- Removal of dead plant material (such as dead stags, and logs and litter from the forest floor) can impact on threatened species.
- 'Wood-hooking' (the illegal collection of firewood) is a major cause of loss of dead wood habitat in native vegetation in and around urban areas.
- For some fauna species, the removal of single living or dead trees (standing or lying, and including in the last stages of decay) can have serious consequences for breeding and survival.
- Planting seedlings may not compensate for loss of mature trees - a hollow of sufficient size for the nest or den of a medium-sized bird or mammal can take up to 300 years to form.
- Leaving patches of un-cleared habitat will often be beneficial for native species by providing a refuge for fauna and a seed source for regenerating vegetation.
- Remember! vegetation clearing which involves the removal of or damage to a threatened plant or animal requires a permit.
The agencies most commonly responsible for regulating this activity are listed below (but refer also to the Permits section on the Planning Ahead