CONTEXT: The health and resilience of many native forests are being compromised by factors such as climate change, pests and diseases, altered or inappropriate land management practices and some land use decisions. Australian forest ecosystems have evolved with periodic droughts and bushfires, but the frequency and intensity of these events is increasing. In many forests, tree density has increased due to removal of active management by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, prolific regeneration following intense bushfires, or sustainable timber harvesting practices in selected areas of State forests. High tree densities can make forests more prone to stress and therefore more vulnerable to negative impacts from drought, insect pests, disease and bushfire. In some forest types, over-crowded stand structures can cause the forest to stop growing; which limits further carbon uptake and storage.
Forest thinning is a silvicultural practice whereby a selective portion of trees are removed across a site to reduce competition for water and nutrients. This allows the retained trees to grow bigger, more quickly, thereby increasing the size of tree trunks and crowns. While thinning has traditionally been undertaken to improve timber yields, there are many other ecological and cultural objectives that can be achieved through thinning. These include enhancing wildlife habitat, increasing water yields in catchments, and restoring open forest structures to facilitate re-introduction of cultural burning practices.
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