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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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land management

Myrtle Rust – an emerging threat to plant communities

People who have walked in Tasmania are probably familiar with the threat posed by Phytophthora, a fungus that attacks the roots of susceptible plants, in many cases killing the plants. In some native plant communities, epidemic disease can develop causing the death of large numbers of plants.

The fungus is now well established in many areas of moorland, heathland and dry eucalypt forest in Tasmania.

Continue reading “Myrtle Rust – an emerging threat to plant communities”

NSW Parks Service staff: a threatened species?

We need national parks. Primarily they exist to protect wild nature. But many of them provide wonderful opportunities for outdoor pursuits, recreation, relaxation and solitude.

But national parks need staff. To manage the land, control weeds and invasive species of animals, manage for fire, provide interpretation and education, look after visitors and park infrastructure like tracks and other facilities.

Sadly in NSW, the state government is carrying out a major ‘restructure’ of the Parks Service which, according to the Public Service Association (the public sector union representing Parks employees) “will cuts jobs and push hundreds and hundreds of years of experience out the door.”

Continue reading “NSW Parks Service staff: a threatened species?”

Falls Creek Hawkweed Eradication Program Volunteer Surveys.

As you may know, Hawkweeds are a highly invasive pest plant species which could cause major environmental damage in alpine and sub-alpine areas of Australia if not eradicated early.

For several years there have been summer field trips where volunteers join with Parks Victoria to identify and remove Hawkweed from the Bogong High Plains. They will be on again this summer and you can register now.

Continue reading “Falls Creek Hawkweed Eradication Program Volunteer Surveys.”

Increased fire frequency is changing snow gum forest structure

Mountain Journal has often reported on the impacts of climate change enhanced fire seasons on the mountains of Australia and, in particular, on plant species.

The iconic mountain species of the mainland, the Snow Gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora), has been hammered in recent decades by multiple fires, often with small gaps between fires.

MJ previously reported on work carried out by researchers from Melbourne University who found that ‘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’.

They went on to say that higher incidences of bushfires, which are likely due to climate change, are devastating for the usually fire-tolerant snow gums of southern Australia.

Now an updated version of their work has been published in the Journal of Vegetation Science which delves into whether these more frequent and severe fires are leading to higher death rates of individual trees (individual snow gums have the ability to regrow after fire from ground level regrowth – called basal resprouts – but may also be killed). This work was carried out by Tom Fairman, Lauren Bennett, Craig Nitschke, and Shauna Tupper.

Continue reading “Increased fire frequency is changing snow gum forest structure”

Fears over Snowy River’s health without independent monitor

The Snowy Mountains scheme, built between 1949 and 1974, diverts the water of the Snowy River and some of its tributaries, much of which originally flowed southeast onto the river flats of East Gippsland, inland to the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers irrigation areas. This has caused the health of the Snowy to decline dramatically.

Following long running campaigns, the Snowy Water Inquiry was established in January 1998. The Inquiry recommended an increase to 15% of natural flows. In 2000, Victoria and NSW agreed to a long-term target of 28%, requiring A$375 million of investment to offset losses to inland irrigators. It has been hoped that this increase in flow will help the health of the river system improve.

However there have been ongoing fears that the flows are not being properly managed in a way that will maximise environmental benefits. In 2013, the NSW Government abolished the Snowy’s scientific monitor and a replacement body, announced in 2014, has not yet been established. As pointed out recently by ecologists, without an independent monitor, there is a risk that the health of the river will go backwards.

Continue reading “Fears over Snowy River’s health without independent monitor”

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’.

Continue reading “More frequent fires threaten snow gums”

Snowy brumby cull plan to be shelved

The Telegraph is reporting that the state government proposal to cull ­almost the entire population of wild horses in the Snowy Mountains is set to be shelved after a government deadlock.

Sadly it seems that the ‘horses are a cultural icon and must be protected’ interests have won out (for the time being) over sensible land management. For a summary of the environmental impacts of wild horses, check here.

Continue reading “Snowy brumby cull plan to be shelved”

The 2017 Alpine Industry Conference

The Alpine Resorts Co-ordinating Council (ARCC) holds an Alpine Industry Conference each year. They are described as ‘bringing together government, government partner agencies, researchers, and private industry to provide participants with valuable and relevant information to assist with the planning and strategic decision-making in a changing environment’.

The conference will feature 3 facilitated panel sessions that will broach major issues facing the Victorian alpine industry.

In 2017, the conference will be held 4 – 5 May, in Marysville. The theme is ‘Managing a Changing Landscape’, with a focus on the impacts of climate change on the alpine environment and what this will mean for businesses which are reliant on snow fall.

Full details here.

 

Help save Basin Creek rainforest

The W-Tree community near the Snowy River in East Gippsland need your help to stop logging of the Basin Creek rainforest complex. This spectacular rainforest area is currently under threat from VicForests logging operations.

The Basin Creek Rainforest Complex is a beautiful matrix of pristine rainforested gullies and old-growth forest that forms a crucial wildlife corridor in an area devastated by clear fell logging. This corridor links the Snowy River National Park with forests further to the West.

Please sign the petition to Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio MP calling on her to protect this stunning place from destructive clear fell logging.

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