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World Heritage

An update on the ecological costs of the 2019 Tasmania fires

Bushfires, which were started by lightning strikes, burnt large areas of Tasmania last summer.

There have been fears expressed by ecologists that large areas of fire sensitive vegetation have been impacted.

An initial desk top assessment carried out by researchers at the University of Tasmania suggested that the areas of these vegetation types affected was very small.

In March, the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service updated their assessment, which also stated that only small areas of vegetation types that are rated ‘Extreme fire sensitive’ (containing components that will not recover from fire, such as rainforest with king billy pine, alpine conifer communities, alpine deciduous beech communities and rainforest with deciduous beech) and ‘very High fire sensitive’ communities (including alpine and subalpine heathland without conifers, rainforest without conifers, and mixed forest) had been affected.

Now, an additional assessment, by the Tasmanian National Parks Association (TNPA), adds further detail to our understanding of the impacts of this summer’s fires.

Continue reading “An update on the ecological costs of the 2019 Tasmania fires”

No sign of wilderness fire funding for World Heritage Areas

In recent years, wildfire has had devastating impacts on World Heritage Areas in Tasmania. The 2016 fires damaged fire sensitive areas and vegetation types, like Pencil Pines near Lake Mackenzie. Fires caused by dry lightning strikes are becoming more common since the year 2000. Yet resourcing for fighting fires in remote areas is not growing to keep up with greater fire threats.

The fires that happened this summer burnt more than 100,000 hectares, but thankfully (and based on initial estimates), it would appear that only very small areas of fire sensitive vegetation like Pencil Pine and King Billy Pine were destroyed. Innovative actions, like placing sprinklers to protect fire sensitive vegetation at Lake Rhona reduced the impacts. But it remains clear that fire fighters are under resourced to fight remote area fires. Despite sustained calls for additional resources, it would appear that the current commonwealth government isn’t coming to the party.

Continue reading “No sign of wilderness fire funding for World Heritage Areas”

TAS fire update – and vegetation impact assessment

Bushfires have burnt more than 90,000 hectares of land in Tasmania this summer. The Gell River fire in the south west is still burning. There have been fears expressed that large areas of fire sensitive vegetation have been impacted. An initial desk top assessment carried out by researchers at the University of Tasmania suggested that the areas of these vegetation types affected was very small.

Now the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service has provided an update on what types of vegetation was involved in the fires and the likely impacts on what they define as ‘Extreme fire sensitive communities’. Their assessment is that very small areas of these communities was impacted.

Continue reading “TAS fire update – and vegetation impact assessment”

Central Highlands Council rejects tourism development in World Heritage Area

In a significant move, the Lake Malbena tourism development has been rejected by the Central Highlands Council.

The controversial ‘helicopter tourism’ development planned for Halls Island in Lake Malbena on Tasmania’s central plateau had previously been approved by state and federal governments. One of the first acts of the Morrison government was to greenlight a private tourism development with helicopter access in Tasmanian world heritage wilderness against the recommendation of an expert advisory body. The local Council was the last government authority which needed to sign off on the project.

The final vote happened at a packed meeting held on February 26, with three councillors voting for, and six against the proposal.

Continue reading “Central Highlands Council rejects tourism development in World Heritage Area”

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”

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””

Impending tragedy in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

As uncontrolled wildfires rage across Tasmania The Wilderness Society and Nature Photographers Tasmania have called on the Premier of Tasmania Will Hodgman and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to urgently request international amphibious water-bombing assistance to combat the unfolding tragedy at some of the world’s most important and iconic natural sites, in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Continue reading “Impending tragedy in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.”

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’.”

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