“Safety first” – new guidelines for managing Tasmanian plantations on karst terrain

Scientists have developed important new guidelines to ensure appropriate riskmanagement practices are considered when dealing with the unique features associated with karst terrain. The move demonstrates a renewed commitment to the safety of forest workers.

While the hazards associated with the management of karst terrain are well known, there has traditionally been relatively little information to support those involved with forest operations on this challenging type of land.

Since 1987, the Tasmanian Forest Practices Code has specified the natural features of karst terrain must be properly protected throughout any impacting forestry operations. Detailed documentation and mapping of karst features including sinkholes and caves has been vital to achieving this.

While properly mapped karst features can be avoided and protected fairly easily during the planting phase by using an effective Forest Practices Plan (FPP), the evolving nature of karst features means future rotation planning ideally needs to be adapted to take into consideration any potential changes.

Now, experience gained from the previous management of such plantations has been utilised by the Forest Practices Authority (FPA) for the creation of new guidelines for forest operations around karst features, and sinkholes in particular.

Instead of classifying sinkholes by size and genesis, the new guidelines divide them into three distinct categories including passive, active and recent. These categories broadly relate to the perceived risk of further collapse and run-off filtering capacity, offering the appropriate management measures for each eventuality.

Incorporation of these measures into FPPs enables improved risk management for sinkholes and helps to minimise hazards for forest managers and machinery operators.

Looking forward, these new guidelines could be used more broadly in karst terrain to cover a number of other features.

Source: Australian Forestry Journal