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Mountain Ash:
Old Growth

Old Growth

mature forest
Old growth Mountain Ash with a hollow limb
Photographer - Ross Field

Old growth Mountain Ash trees are 300-400 years old. The tops of the trees get damaged by wind, snow, insects and fungi and the tree height reduces to 30-60 m. Large branches fall to the ground. Trees begin to decline and die. Some die leaving grey branchless trunks or 'stags' which are important habitat features for many animal species, most notably Leadbeater's Possum Gymnobelideus leadbeateri which has a preference for stags in late decline. If no bushfire comes to the area, the Mountain Ash trees will be recolonised by rainforest trees such as Nothofagus if they exist nearby. The understorey is more open.

Logs on the forest floor are an often overlooked component of old-growth stands. They are important for a variety of reasons, including the return of nutrients to the soil and providing habitat. Logs are used for shelter, feeding, reproduction, basking and nesting. They are important habitats for many invertebrates, reptiles, and provide travel routes for small mammals, as well as being a concentrated source of invertebrates. They may offer nest protection for ground-nesting birds. Their moisture content makes them particularly important as amphibian habitats, including refuge area during fires. Fruiting bodies of mycorrhizal fungi are often found in decomposing logs and stumps. These provide insects and mammals with nutrients and energy. Logs are predominant among the debris in streams of old-growth forests where they provide shelter, fish and frog spawning sites and increased substrate diversity.

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