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Old forests
- what are they?

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Old forests – what are they?

Old forests are native forests which have connotations of maturity, venerable age, primitive origins or lack of disturbance by modern technology.

These elements may be combined – for example in wilderness forests with an overstorey of senescent trees and many species with a long evolutionary lineage. Such forests include old-growth eucalypt forests and rainforests in remote regions of Tasmania.  However, in many places (in Tasmania and elsewhere), old-growth forests are scarce, because of widespread disturbance by humans (e.g. logging and clearing) or natural events (e.g. fire and insect attack).  In such places, forests approaching maturity, or simply containing large trees, might also be considered as ‘old forests’.

Many values – biodiversity, aesthetic, cultural, economic – are associated with old forests. A large proportion of the world’s organisms and a small proportion of its people are forest dwellers. We all use tangible forest resources (such as timber and paper), but don’t always recognise the less tangible contributions made by forests to the well-being of this planet.

Pressure on native forests is increasing under the weight of population growth, economic forces and environmental changes. It is time to bring new ideas, new research and new systems of management to the old forests of the world. That is what this conference is about.