Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Fall of the Leviathans

By David Salt

Three of the world’s top forestry ecologists have warned that the planet’s stock of large, old trees is experiencing an accelerating decline.

David Salt is a researcher with the Environmental Decisions Group at the Australian National University.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

They are among the biggest organisms on Earth, they form keystone structures in every landscape in which they are found, everyone loves them… and they’re disappearing before our eyes. Just as large-bodied animals such as elephants, tigers and many whales have declined drastically around the world, a growing body of evidence suggests that large old trees could be equally imperiled.

Three of the world’s most distinguished forest ecologists have made an impassioned plea in the international journal Science to do something about the accelerating loss of the planet’s stock of large, old trees.

“It’s difficult to underscore how critically important large, old trees are to the ecosystems in which they are found,” says the lead author of the report, Prof David Lindenmayer of the Australian National University’s Environmental Decisions Group. “They provide nesting or sheltering cavities for up to 30% of all vertebrate species in some ecosystems; store large quantities of carbon; play significant roles in local hydrological regimes; and provide abundant food for numerous animals in the form of fruits, flowers, foliage and nectar.

“In agricultural landscapes, large old trees can be focal points for restoration efforts, they facilitate ecosystem connectivity by attracting mobile seed dispersers and pollinators, and they act as stepping stones for many animals...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.