A die-back mandate – better late than never?

Following up on the Monaro die-back issue, ABCSE radio published an article citing the ANU’s Dr Cris Brack and retired forester Vic Jurskis. According to the former, the future involves finding species that will grow and survive expected climate change on the Monaro. The article adds ‘  . . . However, he despairs that finding a solution is not a priority for research funding. “There’s no one with a specific mandate to look at this sort of issue.”

There were many comments on the article in ‘the conversation’, including one suggesting other tree species preferred by koalas are also in trouble on the tablelands. So the notion that other tree species will grow and survive, while the endemic species decline, may be wishful thinking.

According to Australian National University PhD candidate Catherine Ross, ” The main point we are trying to get across here is that none of the ‘simple’ explanations for dieback have stood up under closer inspection.”

On the other hand, Vic Jurskis was critical of the research for not testing his simple theory, that low intensity burning will restore tree health and lamented that it’s ‘nearly too late’.

If there was someone with a specific mandate to look at the issue, one of the questions is where would they start?

soil profiles

In that regard, the photo above, from an ABC Rural story, shows soil profiles taken from agricultural land in Tasmania. In this case electromagnetic (EM) survey-generated computerised maps are combined with analysis of the soil profiles to identify subsoil salinity, sodicity and areas of poor drainage. The profiles are gathered with a hydraulic auger down a metre deep, an appropriate depth if determining negative impacts on trees is a priority.

Of course, even if negative changes to soils are identified, it seems unlikely they wouldn’t be, the question then is what to do about it.

Another comment on’ the conversation’ article suggested ” . . . These dying and dead stands are a resource to be turned into charcoal (NOT BIOCHAR) and incorporated below the soil surface to a depth greater than a meter along a contoured landscape irrespective of land title claims and objections.”

While it’s unclear what objections the commenter has with biochar,  the evidence suggests positive impacts on soils, when incorporated to a maximum of 30cm deep. On cleared land, application at  a 3 degree angle below the contour would encourage water to move away from the generally eroded gullies.

Perhaps when a specific mandate is allocated, these matters will be given some consideration.  Although it should have happened 20 years ago, it may be a case of better late than never.

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