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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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alpine environment

Climate change pushing the alpine zone off mountains

We know that temperatures are increasing around the planet, and that this temperature increase is not uniform – areas at higher latitudes are experiencing a faster warming than areas closer to the equator. We also know that our own alpine environments are being affected by more erratic snow seasons, greater drought and longer fire seasons, and that this is affecting both plant and animal communities. This warming is more apparent at higher elevations.

Australia’s higher mountain ranges are relatively low and located at moderate latitudes. Our alpine zones are often quite isolated from each other, which increases the risk of localised species or community loss if a devastating fire impacts any particular area. We know that the snow line is rising and snowpack is in decline. As the snowline gets higher, warmer conditions will allow species to colonise higher up the mountain zones, potentially meaning that, over time, true alpine vegetation communities are ‘pushed’ off the top of mountains. For instance, recent research conducted by Brodie Verrall and Catherine Pickering from Griffith University found that subalpine grasslands will be impacted by ‘warmer and drier conditions becoming more common and repeat fires in some areas’, (resulting in changes to) ‘the distribution and composition of this and other communities in the Australian Alps’.

Continue reading “Climate change pushing the alpine zone off mountains”

VIC fires burn more than 100,000 ha.

It’s been a hard summer for fires, both in Tasmania and the mainland mountains. In Victoria, more than 100,000 hectares were burnt in the high country, making it another season of ‘mega fire’ (these large fires are growing in frequency under the influence of climate change).

Here’s a quick look at the major areas that were burnt:

Continue reading “VIC fires burn more than 100,000 ha.”

“The whole thing is unravelling”

Once again, we are hearing that Australia’s forests are being ‘reshaped’ by climate change as droughts, heat waves, rising temperatures and bushfires drive ecosystems towards collapse.

Ecologists have long predicted that climate change would have major consequences for Australia’s forests. Now they believe those impacts are already unfolding. Mountain Journal has often reported on this, for instance:

  • In Tasmania, research has confirmed the trend towards more extreme fire seasons. It suggests that we reached a ‘tipping point’ sometime around the year 2000 and that, since then, there has been an increase in the number of lightning-caused fires and an increase in the average size of the fires. This is impacting on fire sensitive vegetation like the high elevation Pencil Pine (Athrotaxis cupressoides) forests and cool temperate rainforest.
  • Fires have decimated some populations of Alpine Ash and Snow Gum
  • Mountain Ash forests could collapse as a result of climate change

A new report, covered in The Guardian describes one of the processes driving the change, called the ‘interval squeeze’.

Continue reading ““The whole thing is unravelling””

Save Kosci walk underway

Over a hundred people joined the Save Kosci full distance walkers on the morning of Saturday 3rd November as they left The Domain in central Sydney.  The walk intends to highlight the negative impacts of wild horses on the alpine environment of the Snowy Mountains. The walkers have just completed their 3rd day and reached Liverpool, with a group of 14. Morale is high and the walkers are getting sympathetic reactions from people they meet along the way.

They are on schedule, so far, to reach the summit of Kosciuszko around 7 to 9 December. If you drive past them in their bright yellow safety vests, give them a friendly toot.  Continue reading “Save Kosci walk underway”

‘Assisted migration’ for species under threat from climate change?

As temperatures rise and the world’s climate rapidly changes, many plants and animals may not be able to relocate fast enough on their own, and habitats and species could be lost. In Australia warmer temperatures are expected to increase the length and severity of bushfire seasons, which will also cause changes in the distribution of many mountain species.

For instance, increased fire frequency may lead to the loss of alpine ash forests, unless there is human intervention.

Continue reading “‘Assisted migration’ for species under threat from climate change?”

Concerned about feral horses in Kosciuszko? Get walking

On the 3rd November, a bunch of bushwalkers will start a 35 day walk from Sydney to the summit of Kosciuszko, to highlight the damage being caused by feral horses.

They are looking for walkers to join them for all or some of the walk. The route will follow main and secondary roads, via Camden, Mittagong, Goulburn, Canberra, Cooma and Charlotte Pass.  With the support of the National Parks Associations of NSW and the ACT, and Bushwalking NSW, they are expecting large crowds at the start and finish of the walks. More detail is available on the Save Kosci web site (savekosci.org)

You’ll be able to register as a walker or non-walking helper from early September. Watch this page for further news, or contact Linda Groom, convenor@savekosci.org

Snowy Hydro seeks ‘fast-tracked environmental approval for pilot works’

We have previously reported that it appeared that Snowy Hydro 2 was seeking to avoid full scrutiny about the likely environmental impacts of the proposal to convert the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme into a pumped hydro system.

While the concept itself is an excellent one in that it will provide a huge ‘battery’ of hydro power for the eastern seaboard, it is essential the work be done in a way that minimises impacts on the environment of the Snowy Mountains. (Check here for a summary of possible impacts of the current proposal).

Recent news reports seem to confirm fears that Snowy Hydro is trying to ‘cut corners’ on the approvals process in order to fast track the development.

Continue reading “Snowy Hydro seeks ‘fast-tracked environmental approval for pilot works’”

Mt Buller dam gets state approval

The Andrews government has announced $7.5 million of support for the controversial Mt Buller Water Storage Project through the Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

Continue reading “Mt Buller dam gets state approval”

Victoria moves to reduce wild horse numbers

The Andrews government has released a long-term plan to protect the Alpine National Park in Victoria from the threat of feral horses.

Minister for Environment Lily D’Ambrosio launched the Protection of the Alpine National Park – Feral Horse Strategic Plan 2018-2021 this week, which aims to radically reduce wild horse numbers in the park. In announcing the plan, Minister D’Ambrosio said “feral horses cannot be allowed to run rampant in the Alpine national park – their hard hooves damage the precious environment and destroy the habitats of threatened species.”

Continue reading “Victoria moves to reduce wild horse numbers”

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