Western koalas and growing trees – the devil in the detail

The Western Woodlands Alliance has released a report identifying priority forests for koalas , west of the divide. Based on koala records from various sources, the report attempts to define areas occupied by both meta -populations and local populations, within bioregions.
For the South East Highlands Bioregion, extending from north west of Newcastle , south to and across the Victorian border, seven meta-populations, including 19 potential local populations were identified. However, only seven local populations, from three meta-populations, are considered to be stable.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the descendants of translocated Victorian koalas, located north east of Cooma, are considered to be a stable population. Quoting the report ” . . . In the South-east Highlands, animals occur in ‘low-density’ populations covering home ranges of over 80-100 ha (Jurskis and Potter, 1997), while animals in more favourable areas occupy ranges of 10-20 ha (Ward and Close, 2002).”
Regrettably, Jurskis and Potter (1997) report on radio-collared koalas in coastal forests and make no reference to tablelands koalas. However, 1997 was the year Forestry released its Koala recovery plan, containing the first reference to these koalas. The other citation, Ward and Close (2002), isn’t in the report’s references.
Die-back isn’t referred to, rather the report suggests ” . . . Less than 10% of local populations appear to be stable or increasing in numbers. The latter are found in the higher altitude tableland and highland regions and suggest modelled climate change impacts upon Koala distribution may already be occurring.”


Deep rip

Also this week the ABC reported on Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announcing $520,000 funding ‘for a research and development project to look into growing trees for harvest on farmland’.
Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA will receive the funding to ” . . coordinate the research to investigate the tree varieties, soil types and planning needed to introduce timber plantations on farm.”
Quoting FWPA managing director Ric Sinclair, ” . . . the industry had “learnt a lot” from the mistakes made by the agribusiness companies behind failed managed investment schemes.”

The CSIRO is also involved in the research, as it is with the Monaro die-back project, in the photo above. In this case deep ripping, a practise that brings less productive soils to the top, is being employed. The ripping is also appears to be across the contour, an approach likely to have a detrimental impact on overland and sub-surface water flows, potentially  increasing  incision and gully erosion.

One can only trust some more enlightened and less environmentally damaging approaches will be trialled.



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