South Sister St. Marys, Tasmania

blind velvet worm

Requires:

Feeds on insects and other litter-dwelling invertebrates.

Prime habitat

Frequent OR high intensity fires can eliminate this velvet worm from otherwise suitable habitat (reduction of number, size and quality of rotting logs).

According to report written by Mesibov (Threatened Fauna Manual for Production Forests in Tasmania – accessed August 28, 2004 from Blind velvet worm search on internet):
'Low intensity infrequent fuel reduction burning is recommended over the whole of the blind velvet worm range to reduce fuels without endangering the species.'

HAS THERE BEEN ANY RESEARCH ABOUT THIS i.e. PRE AND POST LOGGING/FUEL REDUCTION BURN TO ASCERTAIN WHETHER THE NUMBER OF WORMS REMAINS THE SAME?

It would appear that NO Research has been carried out. See below for the Weston/Giles/Dudley case in which the precautionary principle won the case of no logging in Lower German Town.

The countering evidence on behalf of the appellants was that the protective measures provided in the Forest Practices Plan would not be effective and that the impacts on fauna within and around the coupe from the operation were not well enough understood to support the development. In this respect the appellants relied on the precautionary principle, i.e. that lack of scientific certainty as to the extent of risk of environmental harm from an activity should not be used as a justification to allow the activity. Before this case, the precautionary principle had not been applied in a Tasmanian tribunal or court decision. However, the Break O'Day Planning Scheme objectives explicitly required decision makers to 'ensure that where there are threats of serious or irreversible harm, lack of scientific certainty is not used as a reason for allowing environmental degradation.' source, Sep 22, 2004

In another article Tasmania’s Threatened Fauna Handbook accessed August 28, 2004:
'In areas of prime velvet worm habitat there should be no disturbance to rotting logs which constitute prime micro-habitat. This is best done by protecting clumps of habitat surrounding the logs (as large as possible) to ensure the shading and cooling elements are retained at the ground layer .....' (THE PROPOSED LOGGING WILL EMPLOY FIRE REDUCTION BURNS AND SCARIFICATION - BOTH OF THESE WILL LEAD TO REDUCTION IN HABITAT.)

Forest Practices Code states:

..... If clearing is necessary then light selective logging is preferred combined with retaining native corridors or clumps as large as possible. Target those areas which contain abundant decaying logs and also intact trees for future log supply. Southeast facing slopes should be protected where possible .....
WHAT IS SELECTIVE LOGGING?
HOW LARGE IS A CLUMP THAT IS 'AS LARGE AS POSSIBLE'?
HAS ANYONE GONE TO CHECK WHERE THE ABUNDANT LOGS ARE? ARE THEY GOING TO?
SOUTHEAST FACING SLOPES – HAVE THEY BEEN EXCLUDED FROM THE LOGGING? – NO!

..... Do not windrow and burn any residue after logging but roll, chop or much the residue to preserve velvet worms and other invertebrate fauna. All three species of velvet worms can tolerate a degree of light to moderate selective logging and cool, low intensity burning, provided these activities do not significantly impact on the decaying log environment.
ANY FIRE WILL LEAD TO REDUCTION OF UNDERSTOREY AND DRYING OUT OF THE GROUND, REDUCTION OF LEAF LITTER ETC.

..... hot fires ..... destroy the litter layer and open the understorey and micro-habitat to drying ..... Dry forest need only be burnt on a 20 to 30 year interval and then only in a mosaic or patchwork of cool burning during winter or early autumns.
WHEN IS FORESTRY PLANNING TO LOG AND BURN? WILL IT BE IN WINTER OR AUTUMN?

There is an interface between the distribution of the blind and giant velvet worms which is about 20 km long rising from near sea level north of Chain of Lagoons to about 500 m at Dublin Town. This interface is contiguous but not overlapping (parapatric) so that specimens of each species may be found in the same creek line but not together. Reference

SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?


What research has been done pre- and post-logging?
What is selective logging? Has any research been done on habitat over a long period of time after selective logging? Answer: Impossible as these worms have only recently been described. There has been insufficient time to learn what might happen. Surely their habitat was larger than 159 sq km in the past.
Has foresty/agricultural practices already lead to their demise elsewhere?

These notes only pertain to the blind velvet worm. The giant velvet worm has also been found in this area. Habitat and vulnerability is similar to blind velvet worm and hence destruction of their habitat will also occur.

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