Forest Media Review from the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA)
Burning forests for electricity not on:
The Nambucca Guardian had an in-depth story on biomass (with a focus on Way Way, Newry, Tarkeeth, and Redbank) (citing Michael Jones, Susie Russell, Dailan Pugh).
A group of over 500 international scientists have written to the president of the European Council, the president of the European Commission, the US president, the prime minister of Japan and the president of South Korea, asking them to intervene to end the practice of burning wood for energy at an industrial scale as it is seriously undermining efforts both to tackle climate change and to protect biodiversity.
The letter, signed by Peter Raven Director Emeritus Missouri Botanical Society, states:
… We urge you not to undermine both climate goals and the world’s biodiversity by shifting from burning fossil fuels to burning trees to generate energy.
… In recent years, however, there has been a misguided move to cut down whole trees or to divert large portions of stem wood for bioenergy, releasing carbon that would otherwise stay locked up in forests.
The result of this additional wood harvest is a large initial increase in carbon emissions, creating a “carbon debt,” which increases over time as more trees are harvested for continuing bioenergy use. Regrowing trees and displacement of fossil fuels may eventually pay off this carbon debt, but regrowth takes time the world does not have to solve climate change. As numerous studies have shown, this burning of wood will increase warming for decades to centuries. That is true even when the wood replaces coal, oil or natural gas.
The reasons are fundamental. Forests store carbon -approximately half the weight of dry wood is carbon. When wood is harvested and burned, much and often more than half of the live wood in trees harvested is typically lost in harvesting and processing before it can supply energy, adding carbon to the atmosphere without replacing fossil fuels. Burning wood is also carbon-inefficient, so the wood burned for energy emits more carbon up smokestacks than using fossil fuels. Overall, for each kilowatt hour of heat or electricity produced, using wood initially is likely to add two to three times as much carbon to the air as using fossil fuels.
Increases in global warming for the next few decades are dangerous. This warming means more immediate damages through more forest fires, sea level rise and periods of extreme heat in the next decades. It also means more permanent damages due to more rapid melting of glaciers and thawing of permafrost, and more packing of heat and acidity into the world’s oceans. These harms will not be undone even if we remove the carbon decades from now.
Government subsidies for burning wood create a double climate problem because this false solution is replacing real carbon reductions. Companies are shifting fossil energy use to wood, which increases warming, as a substitute for shifting to solar and wind, which would truly decrease warming.
To avoid these harms, governments must end subsidies and other incentives that today exist for the burning of wood whether from their forests or others.
Trees are more valuable alive than dead both for climate and for biodiversity. To meet future net zero emission goals, your governments should work to preserve and restore forests and not to burn them.
Forestry and EPA at Loggerheads.
The story of the week is the feud between Forestry Corporation and the EPA over logging of burnt forests, particularly in the south east, with the Forestry Corporation refusing to comply with the Site Specific Operating Conditions (SSOCs) anymore and the EPA threatening to prosecute them for causing environmental harm. The interesting aspect is that the EPA’s SSOCs are legal requirements, so if they are not complied with they are legal breaches. The story in The Guardian is best. The second SMH article cites a variety of documents identifying Barilaro a putting the pressure on.
The EPA’s press release stated:
Based on expert advice and the literature, the EPA is of the view that site specific conditions are the most effective way of managing the environmental risks associated with harvesting in landscapes that have been so extensively and severely impacted by fire.
The EPA has been working to negotiate updated site specific conditions based on current knowledge of the impact of the fires, and to identify and implement a long-term approach to manage the risks posed by timber harvesting in the post-fire landscapes of coastal NSW.
FCNSW has now withdrawn from those discussions around logging on the South Coast.
The EPA expects to receive advice from FCNSW regarding additional voluntary measures they intend to apply to manage the impacts of logging operations. These will not be enforceable by the EPA under the current rules.
In response to the decision of FCNSW, the EPA will further increase its regulatory oversight of future logging operations.
The EPA has a statutory objective to protect, restore and enhance the quality of the environment in NSW having regard to the need to maintain ecologically sustainable development. Where the EPA identifies non-compliance, it will take appropriate regulatory action.
FCNSW is authorised by the NSW Government to undertake forestry operations under the Forestry Act 2012, and must comply with the IFOA rules.
Sue Arnold attacks Barilaro for earlier over-riding the advice of the EPA by insisting that burnt forests be logged to satisfy timber commitments irrespective of environmental and resource impacts. She also focusses on the inability for third-party enforcement (cites Dailan Pugh).
There is an intriguing story in Pearls and Irritations that Gladys Berejiklian is soon going to jump ship (March-June), with NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet set to replace her, with Matt Kean as his running mate. Could be interesting times.
The big national issue is the review of the EPBC Act and the Coalition’s intent to hand its responsibilities for Matters of National Environmental Significance over to the states for determination, without the strong National Environmental Standards recommended by Professor Samuel’s review. Strangely everyone seems to have seen the Government’s piss-weak national standards except the states. The Guardian reports that there’s little support for the Government’s approach from key cross-benchers or the ALP.
Article: Sydney Morning Herald 13 February 2021
An article in VICE World News takes it down to the species level, lamenting our horrible extinction record and the failure of the EPBC Act to reverse the decline.
And the Guardian has an article highlighting the sham that offsetting is, with the example that the offset for clearing 1,780ha of bushland for the Badgerys Creek airport was to protect a similar sized area that was already protected.
Baby faced Koalas an iconic issue, so cute everyone wants one:
The reason we find Koalas so appealing is because they remind us of kids, and their successful “anthropomorpism” as characters such as Norman Lindesay’s Bunyip Bluegum and Blinky Bill.
The ABC has an in-depth article about the threats faced by Koalas, citing the primary problem being the direct and indirect impacts of habitat loss, with climate change a growing problem. It advocates stewardship payments for landholders. Meanwhile the Tim Flannery special on Are We Killing Our Koalas takes a different tact, largely ignoring logging and habitat loss, and effectively saying that while it’s a shame that NSW and Queensland are losing their Koalas, its all OK because we can repopulate with South Australia’s inbred Koalas. An article in Wagga’s Daily Advertiser cites the example of Narrandera’s successful translocation of Victorian Koalas to support the Green’s advocating establishing another colony in urban Wagga. And Gunnedah is about to get a 50 acre Gunnedah Koala Sanctuary, run by Council and tourism operator CAPTA, with a koala hospital, petting zoo, wildlife centre and accommodation. Why worry about logging when we can have open air Koala zoos as tourist attractions everywhere.
Article: The Daily Advertiser 17 Feb 2021
Revelations that Kangaroos and Koalas living in plantations adjacent to Alcoa’s Portland aluminium smelter had deformed bones and teeth as a result of fluorosis, a condition linked to the facility’s fluoride emissions, with 40 Koalas having to be euthanised. Koalas are also breaking through the perimeter fence and suffering horrible injuries.
The Myall Koala and Environment Group focuses on tree planting and bush regeneration.
And Port Macquarie-Hastings Council are building koala stiles across the entire LGA to assist koalas to safely get across road fences.
Federally the Greens attempted to introduce legislation to prevent the Federal Environment Minister from approving new mines or developments in koala habitat.
The economic benefits of the Great Koala National Park had another run.
Fragmentation causes stress and disease:
A South American study found that small mammals were more stressed in smaller forest fragments than those in larger patches, which can lead to increases in disease and the risk of diseases moving into human populations.
The study compared small and large habitat fragments in Argentina finding “that the levels of the glucocorticoids cortisol and corticosterone differed in small mammals based on (1) the size of the forest fragment where the individuals lived; (2) the trapping method used, probably due to stress of confinement upon capture“, concluding “individuals living in heavily disturbed habitats may experience more physiological challenges than individuals in more intact habitats“
Are our alpine forests doomed?:
Since the beginning of this century a series of wildfires have devastated our Alpine ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis) and Mountain ash (E. regnans) forests, as they require 20 years to set seeds and many stands have been burnt more frequently. Snow Gums have also been suffering fire losses, though now there is rising concern as attacks by a longicorn beetle is ringbarking trees and causing widespread dieback above1600 metres.
There is a podcast at:
Snow-gum dieback refers to the death of snow-gum species as a consequence of infestation by a wood-boring longicorn beetle. Larvae, feeding on the outer layers of wood and inner layers of bark, ring-bark affected trees. The canopy of affected trees gradually declines in health and dies. In most instances infestation ends with the complete death of the tree, and in the most severe cases, the entire stand. Although snow-gum dieback is known to have occurred sporadically throughout the latter part of the twentieth century, the current outbreak appears to eclipse the extent of earlier outbreaks.
Beware the zombie trees:
On occasion trees can live on after they are apparently killed, their stumps kept alive by a mysterious force which is likely the symbiotic relationships they formed with mycorrhiza and root grafts with other trees – leading to a view that forest ecosystems are superorganisms.
If you are scared by zombies you can monitor logging from the safety of your armchair:
Starting with audio detectors using an old mobile phone, solar panels and a microphone, the group Rainforest Connection has teamed up with major companies to place audio detectors in a dozen countries. The recorders send audio to a central facility where artificial intelligence is used to pick out desired information, from the sounds of logging to bird calls. It can identify logging in real time, as well as enabling remote fauna surveys.
The World Resources Institute has upgraded its Global Forest Watch to make it possible to monitor what’s happening to distant tropical forests almost in real time through satellite imagery.
This is a useful site for deforestation data, down to a LGA level. I had a brief look at the real time disturbance data. It is primarily aimed at tropical rainforests, with the highest resolution data not covering Australia. The GLAD mapping only covers to 30o S (ie sth of Grafton) and I was not convinced it adequately represented eucalypt forest cover or logging – though it deserves further assessment. It displays conservation reserves and LGAs, but not state forests. Disturbances can be identified over any time period since 2015, which is a useful feature.
March 21 International Day for Forests:
The United Nations General Assembly declared 21 March as International Day of Forests. The theme for 2021 is “Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being”.