Forest management – of interest globally and locally

In the lead up to the climate change ‘Paris Agreement’ later this year, governments are supposed to submit “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDC), to aid in limiting predicted global temperature increases. The authoritative Climate Action Tracker rates Australia’s current attempts as ‘inadequate’ and it seems any INDC produced is unlikely to improve the rating.

Making things a little more difficult for governments, ABC’s PM program recently posted an interview with Professor David Lindenmeyer, from the Australian National University.

Employing the federal government’s “Fullcam” forest carbon modelling tool, Dr Lindenmeyer found a saving of 190 million tonnes of emissions, about 80% of the abatement requirements up til 2020, if native forest logging stopped at the end of this year. Correctly approached, this saving could lead to several billion dollars in forest carbon credits for ‘cash strapped state governments’, over the next five years. According to David, if the calculations are incorrect ‘ . . . we cannot faithfully and accurately report to the United Nations on emissions from native forest management’.

Not surprisingly Senator Richard Colbeck, federal parliamentary secretary for forestry differed suggesting, ” . . . I’ve looked at the science from very eminent Australian forest carbon scientists and they quite clearly show that a well-managed forest can provide – harvested and managed over time, can provide a better carbon outcome than one that’s just left fallow.”

While a more appropriate position for Senator Colbeck may be secretary for previously plowed paddocks, the advice from ‘very eminent Australian forest carbon scientists’ may not be the very best. In part this stems from ‘Fullcam’, because like any model its outputs are is only as good as the inputs.

Perhaps the major input limitation is the lack of broadscale tree inventory data, what the states were supposed to collect under the RFAs. These data are also supposed to provide input for the ‘Forest Productivity Index’, the driver for tree growth in the model. Other limitations include credible information on soil carbon, particularly with regard to repeated disturbance.

For many years Australian scientists have relied on the work of forestry to inform an understanding of soils and their limitations. Confirming this reliance is an oft cited study in Eden region forests, the ‘Effects of forest harvesting nutrient removals on soil nutrient reserves’ (Turner J and Lambert M, 1986). With regard to soil phosphorus the very optimistic paper suggested ” . . . at least four forest rotations (320 years) would be required before any detectable change would occur within forest communities.”

It goes on to say ” . . . A similar depletion estimate was calculated for the potentially most vulnerable cation, calcium.”, although subsequent soil analysis found significant calcium depletion in soils locally and regionally.

However, authors John and Marcia do sum up another reason koalas have been pushed to the edge, indicating ” . . . It would therefore appear probable that, during logging, relatively higher quantities of nutrients could be removed from the more fertile sites.”



Also on the ABC this week, the North East Forest Alliance says it has lost confidence in the Environment Protection Authority, claiming the EPA is allowing ‘environmental vandalism’. According to NEFA spokesperson Dialan Pugh, ” . . . the State Government is trying to re-zone 143 thousand hectares of native forest on the north coast for intensive clear-fell logging.”

The EPA expressed its disappointment with NEFA’s comments, a spokeswoman suggesting they ‘have attempted to engage conservation groups about the reform process’.

Tragically the NSW government’s attempts to prop up an unsustainable industry fall short on many levels, including locally.

An example is in the photo above, taken a day or two after FCNSW recently placed some dirt a 1080 bait . Although a bit difficult to decipher, a wombat noticed the disturbance and had a scratch in the pink circle.

Around the same time a smaller animal, perhaps a bush rat or antichinus, dug a hole, indicated at pink arrow head, down to the chooks head bait and ate some of it.

While the fate of this animal is unknown, the next explorer was a blowfly that, no doubt laid some maggots.

Such matters aren’t the focus of the IFOA reform process, although there is an argument to suggest that along with unsustainable logging, they should be.



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