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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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fire

Remote area firefighters call for more resources

Firefighters at the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife service are calling for more specialised local staff to fight remote fires.

During the 2016 fires that devastated fire sensitive vegetation in Tasmania, there were a number of suggestions made by concerned observers that the Parks and Wildlife Services’ firefighting efforts appeared ‘poorly prioritised’ in terms of early response to the fires in remote areas. According to the Tasmanian National Parks Association, fire response prescriptions prioritising rare and threatened fire sensitive species were not ‘effectively implemented’. Lack of early intervention may have resulted in these fires becoming larger than they otherwise would have been. Similar claims have emerged with the 2019 fires.

Continue reading “Remote area firefighters call for more resources”

Fire risk a grave threat to cable car proposal

As the long debate continues about whether a developer should be allowed to build a cable car up the face of kunanyi/Mt Wellington, Bernard Lloyd reminds us about the primary threat to the mountain, which is posed by wildfire. Regular fires on the mountain have huge implications for the proposal to build a cable car.

In terms of combustibility, the forest on the mountain’s eastern face carries the greatest fuel load. The cable car is planned to be built up the eastern face.

  Continue reading “Fire risk a grave threat to cable car proposal”

The 2019 Tasmanian Fires so far: what has burned and where?

An update on what ecological communities have been burnt.

Fires have burnt across huge sections of Tasmania this summer (and some continue to burn despite recent rain and milder conditions). There have been grave fears that fire sensitive vegetation – plant communities that will not recover or recover very slowly after fire – had been badly impacted by the fires.

An initial analysis (based on the fires up until Feb 5) of what types of vegetation have been burnt so far in this summer’s fires is heartening. According to Dr Sam Wood, only very small areas of fire sensitive vegetation have been identified as being burnt. “The majority of the burned area is comprised of flammable vegetation communities” (ie, communities adapted to fires). Continue reading “The 2019 Tasmanian Fires so far: what has burned and where?”

“We are not out of the woods yet”

The Bureau of Meteorolgy has released its national climate summary for January 2019. As expected, it shows that it was the country’s warmest January on record for mean temperatures (2.91 °C above average), maximum temperatures (3.37 °C above average) and minimum temperatures (2.45 °C above average). Rainfall for the country as a whole was 38% below the long-term average for January, and Tasmania had its driest January on record.

After a dry winter and spring in the south east and then a sustained heatwave, its fairly obvious why its been a horror summer for fires. Tasmania and Victoria still have a significant number of fires which are not contained, let alone under control. And there is no obvious break coming to this hot, dry weather. The ecological costs of this summer’s fires are already becoming apparent.

Continue reading ““We are not out of the woods yet””

Fires still threaten Tasmania’s south west and central plateau

A considerable number of fires continue to threaten Tasmania’s protected areas. These happened as a result of more than 9,000 lightning strikes which have happened since tuesday 15th January. Increased dry lightning strikes, prolonged dry summers and high temperatures are consistent with what climate science says is coming in terms of fire risk in Tasmania.

While the large Gell River fire raised concerns about impacts on fire sensitive plant communities early in the month, some of the new fires also threaten non fire adapted vegetation in the south west and the Central Plateau.

Continue reading “Fires still threaten Tasmania’s south west and central plateau”

TAS fire grows to 10,000 ha. ‘There’s no way of stopping it at this stage’.

A fire is burning out of control in the south west of Tasmania. It started as a result of a lightning strike on December 27. It is being reported that it has already grown to 10,000 hectares and currently considered ‘out of control’ and hence fire services are unable to contain it. The ABC reports that 150 members of the Tasmanian Fire Service are currently fighting it but ‘there’s no way of stopping it at this stage’.

It threatens iconic areas like Lake Rhona and is moving towards Mt Field National Park and the towns of Maydena, Tyenna and National Park. A westerly change which is passing through the state could change direction of the fire so check the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) website for details if you’re in the area (see below for all links).

Header image of the fire comes from http://satview.bom.gov.au/

Continue reading “TAS fire grows to 10,000 ha. ‘There’s no way of stopping it at this stage’.”

BOM/ CSIRO state of the climate report – (another) wake up call

We know that climate change is already impacting on the mountains and ecosystems that we love. Tree and plant species are threatened, fire seasons are becoming longer and more intense, and winter snow is in long term decline.

There are two key take home messages from the data that is available:

  • Climate change is impacting now and will get worse during our lifetime,
  • Action now to radically reduce emissions will greatly reduce impacts in the future.

To add to the body of knowledge we already have, the recently released Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO’s state of the climate report points to a long-term increase in the frequency of extreme heat events, fire weather and drought in coming years.

Continue reading “BOM/ CSIRO state of the climate report – (another) wake up call”

‘Evidence of the impact of climate change on our country’s distinct flora and fauna is beginning to emerge’

Evidence about the impact of climate change on our country’s distinct flora and fauna is beginning to emerge. This is not ‘new’ news, this information is already widely available if you care to look for it. What is astonishing is that this growing body of information about the impacts of climate change on the land where we live doesn’t seem to compel more people to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are some recent examples of how climate change enhanced fire seasons are impacting on mountain environments:

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, “resulting in a marked increase in the area burnt”.

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 aimed at keeping the species viable in the wild.

Now, a new article from Professor Ary Hoffmann, Nicholas Bell and Dr James Camac, at the University of Melbourne, looking at how we monitor the impacts of climate change on Australia’s terrestrial ecosystems has additional concerning news.

Continue reading “‘Evidence of the impact of climate change on our country’s distinct flora and fauna is beginning to emerge’”

“Something changed about 2000″. TAS forests threatened by ‘catastrophic’ bushfires

Widespread wildfires in early 2016 caused devastating damage across large areas of the Tasmanian World Heritage Area, including significant sections of vegetation which is not fire adapted, such as Pencil Pine forests.

At the time, and in follow up investigations, it became clear that increased fire risk due to climate change posed an existential threat to these vegetation types. Now additional 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, “resulting in a marked increase in the area burnt”.

Continue reading ““Something changed about 2000″. TAS forests threatened by ‘catastrophic’ bushfires”

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