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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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alpine environment

Alpine Tasmania

If you love the natural environment of Tasmania you need to subscribe to Tasmanian Geographic (TG), an online journal covering “exploration, research,science outreach, adventure & expedition journalism, educational mapmaking, documentary filmmaking, ecological & experiential & educational tourism, historical musings, museum studies, project updates, and more”.

In their most recent edition, there is an announcement about a book on the alpine environment of this island paradise.

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More frequent fires threaten snow gums

Fire has had a significant role in shaping mountain ecosystems in Australia for millions of years. But climate change is making our fire seasons more extreme and longer in duration.

What this means is that we are seeing more and more areas being burnt more frequently. In the case of the Victorian mountains, I have seen some areas of alpine ash and snow gums that have been burnt three times in a decade. Each year it feels like the world is getting poorer as these forests are impacted time and again, potentially beyond their ability to recover.

It’s the same story everywhere. Who can forget the devastating fires in Tasmania over the summer of 2016?

As we hear warnings that this summers fire season may be a bad one, massive fires are raging across much of western North America, causing many people to flee from their homes and communities. Vast areas of land are being burnt. For instance one fire in California swept through an area called Nelder Grove, which is home to 2,700-year-old giant sequoia trees. Human assets like historical buildings are also being threatened or destroyed.

There are fires across much of the rest of the northern hemisphere too. Check the incredible maps in this article entitled ‘This is how much of the world is currently on fire’.

Recent research here in Australia demonstrates that fire impacts are growing on snow gum forests and will continue to do so in future. Mountain Journal has reported on a number of these reports in the past. A new report from researchers at Melbourne University has a shocking message: ‘over 90% of the Victorian distribution of snow gums has been burned at least once since 2003. What is of greater concern though, is that each of the large fires of the last 15 years has overlapped to some extent, leaving thousands of hectares of snow gums burned by wildfire twice, and sometimes three times’.

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Significant forest destruction proposed for Dinner Plain

Mountain Journal has previously reported on a plan to clear 1.8 hectares of Sub-alpine Woodland just adjacent to the Dinner Plain village to create an ‘Elite Training Facility’ (now called the ‘Village Green’).

The current proposal is to create a ‘large flat open grassed area approximately 90 m wide and 150 m long’. An access road and car parking along two sides of the grassed area are proposed, as well as public toilet facilities. A report prepared for Council describes it ‘as a community space (which) is large enough to facilitate sporting events such as polo, horse riding, and high altitude elite athlete training.’

Alpine Shire Council has committed to the delivery of $1,500,000 worth of capital works projects within Dinner Plain by 2027; and says that this will be funded by the Dinner Plain reserve (currently approximately $1,000,000) and additional funds as allocated by Council.

It now needs to decide whether to proceed with the proposal.

Continue reading “Significant forest destruction proposed for Dinner Plain”

The Mountain Legacy Project

The Mountain Legacy Project, or MLP, is “an interdisciplinary collaboration focused on exploring change in Canada’s mountain environments. Utilizing over 140,000 images taken by land surveyors from 1861 – 1953, MLP researchers seek to re-photograph these images as accurately as possible and make the resulting image pairs available for further investigation”.

It compares the original landscape shown in the early photos with ones taken in the same place over the past few years. It allows you look at the changes in many thousands of places – mountains, valleys and so on – over time. And the results are incredible. While it documents the development of towns, roads, changes in land management, the impact of logging operations and wildfire, etc, the most striking aspect is the change to snowpack and ice fields during this time.

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Rabbits adapting to eat snow gum leaves

This is a worrying development. Research by the legendary Ken Green shows that rabbits are now moving into snowy mountainous areas by adapting to survive on snow gum leaves when there is limited availability of grass. These are generally toxic to most animals.

The following article by Alice Klein comes from New Scientist.

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Alpine Ecology Course 2017

The Research Centre for Applied Alpine Ecology is pleased to announce details of its 2017 Alpine Ecology Course.  This is an exciting opportunity to learn about the plants, animals, land-forms and soils that make up alpine ecosystems. The course is designed for people who are involved in natural resource management or conservation activities in alpine and other natural environments.

It will be held on the Bogong High Plains from the 5th – 10th February 2017.

Further information available here.

Deer hunters want more access to Victorian wilderness

There is currently a parliamentary inquiry in Victoria into the control of invasive animals on Crown land. It is due to report back in March 2017.

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Keep an eye out for willows and other weeds

The following comes from Parks Victoria.

Help us eradicate willow and other noxious weeds from the Baw Baw and Alpine National Parks by participating in the West Gippsland Peatland Community Threat Surveillance Program, keeping an eye out for willows while you are visiting.

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Mt Stirling tree gets a nomination

If you’ve ever walked up Mt Stirling, its very hard to miss the ‘Stirling tree’ – a lone snow gum that stands towards the south peak of the mountain and is visible from the four wheel drive track that passes over the summit.

I often sit by the tree and never fail to be amazed by how many 4WD’s drive over the mountain, without the occupants ever stopping, let alone walking around. The views from Mt Stirling are superb, sitting in a huge ring of mountains that stretch from Mt Skene around to Howitt, all the way across to Buffalo Plateau. The tree draws your gaze and is a popular spot for many walkers as they wander around the summit area.

Continue reading “Mt Stirling tree gets a nomination”

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