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The Forum > Article Comments > Fired-up forests have more impact than the loggers > Comments

Fired-up forests have more impact than the loggers : Comments

By Mark Poynter, published 30/11/2006

Logging water catchments can be a useful water-supply management tool.

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Can't believe the hype of the people who will profit by opening up the timber coups in the water catchment.

Wasn't there a big hullabaloo at the latest industry conference when the keynote speaker said that forestry had never undertaken worthwhile scientific studies of the impact of the industry practices. Didn't the keynote speaker say that the studies were too narrow in area of geographic study and the studies had never been conducted over a long enough time. Didn't the expert also warn that the bug that has turned all of the British Columbia dense forests to firewood is moving into Alberta and could presumably appear here as well. The bug would rip through the Gunn's plantations because it would have no predators.

Now any one who paid attention in Grade 3 knows that we need trees to produce rain and common sense says leave the water catchments alone.

In those Victorian shires that still have a forest industry there are many more people earning an income from the tourism industry and tourists can see the devastation and ugliness of newly cleared coups. Tourists who want a pristine nature experience will decide to holiday in Queensland or New Zealand if the forest industry makes the landscape too ugly.
Posted by billie, Thursday, 30 November 2006 12:30:39 PM
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Regular thinning also improves understorey biodiversity and this can actually perform the same water quality function as the removed trees. The thinning also improves the nutritional value of retained vegetation and increases the stocking density of forest dependent species.

The vigorous competition for soil moisture in the unthinned regrowth means that the soil is pumped dry sooner between each rainfall event. And this means that the moisture content of the leaves spend more of the year at levels below 65% and 1.8% nitrogen which is the point below which polyphenyls are released which render the leaves indigestible to Koalas and many other leaf eating species.

The removal of some of the trees leaves the remaining stocks of soil moisture to be shared by less stems and this boosts runoff when a new rainfall event falls on a fuller soil profile. This fuller soil profile keeps the soil microorganisms producing nitrogen for a longer part of the year which also boosts both the growth rate and nutritional value of the leaves, sap and buds of remaining trees.

And this, of course, enhances the survival rate of young forest dwelling species and improves the reproductive capacity of adults.

And as thinned forest acts as a retardant of wildfires, due to their inmproved moisture budgets, the species within these parts of the forest are less prone to bushfire mortality and less likely to die crossing a road in search of better food supplies.

These benefits of thinning are particularly important if those forests and their dependent species are to adjust to warmer, drier conditions due to climate change. To ignore these considerations is gross negligence causing entirely foreseeable harm.

If the wildlife could sue someone for their predicament it would be the "lock it up and leave it" brigade.
Posted by Perseus, Thursday, 30 November 2006 12:38:59 PM
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Markís article gives us two good arguments for limited forestry harvesting in our water catchments, increased water yields and severe bushfire prevention but IMHO both cases demand a wider input to operations supervision than we get now with regular harvesting.

As our catchments nationally cover extensive areas of various bushland types it would be wise to consider something scientific and practical beyond the RFA process.

But this is such a sensitive issue that we need some fresh accreditation procedures for all forestry contractors to provide the public at large some certainty our environment will be improved long term in addition to our water quality.

The first step should be the formation of an independent group of industry experts including water, fire and forestry for starters to advise state agency managers on the way forward.

Mark; we also need bodies such as the ACF on side
Posted by Taz, Thursday, 30 November 2006 12:52:56 PM
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Taz, Mr Poynter doesn't need the ACF/Australian Conservation Foundation, he's a member of the Australian Environment Foundation (ready-made by the Institute of Public Affairs, sharing an office and a phone number with the Landholders Association) to push any issue The Institute of Foresters of Australia (his day job) need to maximise returns to shareholders.

Shouldn't this article go with the paid IPA ads?

On the articles claims that thinning increases runoff, there is evidence supporting that, no doubt.
In the short term.
So for a few years after thinning, more runoff, great.
Longer term, more forest disturbance spreads disease, weeds and pests; thinner forests in some situations promote grasses and more burning, where thicker moister forests resist burning; more vegetation overall reduces erosion, improves water quality, lowers peak runoff, improves infiltration, and cycles moisture to hopefully make more rain further inland. Oh, and retaining veg helps all that bleeding-heart biodiversity & climate change stuff too.

So for possible short term increase in runoff, the Forestry Industries media advisor thinks we should cut more timber. About as surprising as a merchant banker calling for more steeper water pricing. Who do you gurriers think you're kidding?
Posted by Liam, Thursday, 30 November 2006 6:32:37 PM
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Liam: Itís my own idea that we need to work over both catchments and reserves for quality timber. I spent long enough watching Melbourneís outskirts grow and I saw lots of nasty bushfires round about. I also know there is no reduction in demand for resources anywhere.

Till growth can be reversed we are stuck with some difficult choices like using our own wood or theirs from some even less fortunate place. After all, wood is a renewable resource when managed properly. All Iím asking for is here a truly independent umpire in seeking whatís possible and sustainable up in our remaining forests.

The 2003 bushfires taught me just how much we can loose in a day or two. Some states are more advanced than others in accepting that we must either periodically clear or burn a bit of mature forest to keep it viable. Thinning with wildfire is haphazard to say the least. With climate change driving events right under our nose now we have to get smarter in maintaining whatís left of the bush. Repeated fires like 2003 wonít do anyone any good; neither will this years extensive back burns in NSW around the Grose Valley during the peak fire threat do.

As protected forests completely dry out somebody takes a hell of a risk.
Posted by Taz, Thursday, 30 November 2006 7:41:07 PM
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Does it hurt when you try to think, Liam? Is there some sort of little demon in your head that prods you with an electrode whenever you mind might stray beyond political diatribe? Do you get altitude sickness whenever you stray from generalities to specifics?

Or have you simply forgotten your medication today?

And ditto for poor old Billie.

If what you two have written could be translated into Koala, Possum, Glider and Owl you would be gobsmacked by the lengths these species would go to peck out your eyes, scratch your arms, crap on your heads and sink their claws into your scrawny necks for the harm your ignorance does to their survival prospects.

On behalf of humanity I apologise to all forest dwelling species for all the ills that people like you have forced on them in the name of ecology. The wildlife are the real experts in forest ecology and they regularly vote with their feet and move to well managed, regularly thinned regrowth forests.

Like them, I live and work in a forest too. So tell us, fellas what proportion of your life have you actually spent in forest?
Posted by Perseus, Thursday, 30 November 2006 8:22:07 PM
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