Warnings about Bushfire Warnings: A Note from Roger Underwood

AWSOME_topA PERSISTENT complaint from victims of the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria was that they had “received no warning”. Over and again we heard statements like this: “There was no fire anywhere, but the next thing, we had fire all around us. There was no word of warning, and we never stood a chance”.

This issue has since been highlighted by the Royal Commission in its Interim Report, and is being taken to heart by fire authorities all over Australia. In Western Australia, for example, the Fire and Emergency Service (FESA) has rolled out a new warning arrangement based on mobile phones, and has carried out a substantial and well-publicised test in a Perth Hills suburb. It was said (by FESA) to have been a great success.

This is a delicate subject, because I don’t want to sound disrespectful to people who lost their lives or suffered in the Victorian fires. I realise that many people are perplexed by the way they were engulfed by fire and caught by surprise. I understand the desire of authorities to get warning systems in place. Officials realise that a failure to deal with this issue in future fires will come back to haunt them if complaints are made to Royal Commissions, Coronial inquiries and the media.

However, the downsides, weaknesses and dangers in bushfire warning systems must be properly understood. 

The first problem is that while the behaviour of bushfires burning at low intensity in light fuels is well understood, high intensity fires in heavy fuels can behave erratically. Intense fires generate their own wind and throw spot fires kilometres ahead. This is the main reason people are caught unawares. One minute the fire may well be “miles away”. But the next minute a high wind brings a rain of burning embers. If these fall into heavy dry fuels, people rapidly find themselves enveloped by fire. High intensity fires will leapfrog across one ridge to another, and then swirl back, sucked into the intervening valleys and seemingly coming from the “wrong direction”. A bushfire can move from a mild ground fire with 1-2 metre flames, to an intense crown fire (throwing spotfires) within a matter of minutes…. it is simply a matter of a wind change turning a long flank into a headfire, or of a fire moving from an area of light to an area of heavy fuels.

Very rapid changes in fire behaviour, and mass spotfire generation present a nightmare for people with the job of activating a warning system. Decisions can only be made with very accurate and up-to-date information from the fire. Since the situation at the fire is  often confused, and firefighters generally do not have any idea of the big picture, it makes decision-making about whether or when to activate a warning (and to whom) doubly difficult.

A further problem is that rarely do you get one fire at the one time, especially on a bad day. When there is a dry lightning storm, of where an arsonist is at his dirty work, it is not uncommon for several fires to start at about the same time and run parallel with each other. This can confuse efforts at fire detection, mapping, and spread prediction. When many separate fires start to coalesce and interact, fire prediction moves into the realms of the unknown, making it virtually impossible to know who to warn and when, other than in the broadest geographic sense.

Finally, any warning system based on communications technology is likely to break down in a serious bushfire situation. This is especially true of technologies that require mains electricity, which is generally the first to go when there is a fire, or static relay stations like phone towers that can be destroyed by fire or cyclonic winds. To this must be added the well-known problem of communications overload in a crisis situation.

There are two serious dangers with the whole concept of targeted warning systems. The first is that a mass warning will quite possibly lead to a mass evacution. People leaving the area will choke the roads, and these may well be the same roads on which there are incoming fire appliances. It is not clear to me that the authorities have sufficiently thought this issue through.

The second danger is that the authorities are raising expectations that they may not be able to fulfil. If people are expecting to get, and are waiting for a warning, and the warning does not arrive (for one reason or another), they are going to be set-up for calamity. I hate the idea of community and individual self-reliance being undermined.

To be effective and reliable, a bushfire warning system must meet a number of criteria. It must have access to accurate data on fire location, fuels and weather, together with the fire behaviour algorithms that can predict fire frontal development. It must be able to anticipate wind changes and instantly take on board new information from a fire where long-distance spotting is occurring. It must be flexible in responding to rapidly changing human as well as bushfire situations. There must be back-up in the event of a technological failure. Above all it must have a large and well-trained human resource to make everything work under extreme pressure, including very experienced and accountable decision-makers. A system meeting these requirements will be expensive to set up and maintain. It will also suffer steady degrade if a few years go by with no major fires.

It is will be the height of over-confidence to create an expectation in fire-prone communities that they will always receive timely warnings of imminent bushfires. The system will probably work under relatively mild weather and low fuel conditions. But the opposite will always be more likely when a killer bushfire is running. Then people will receive no warning, or warnings will be too late to enable appropriate actions.

There is another very real problem. This is when warnings are issued but are not followed by a fire. In the coming fire season or two we can expect that there will be a (wholly understandable) temptation to overdo the warnings. Fire officers with trigger fingers will not want to face a Coronial Court for failing to push the button. But if fires do not follow warnings, the result will be the “crying wolf syndrome” where people become blase, and then do not react when there really is a fire.

In my view the first priority for fire authorities should be to optimise the bushfire resilience of towns and communities – in particular reducing areas of heavy fuel within and adjoining residential areas, making houses and road verges safer, setting up local community refuge areas and maintaining a program of regular mild burning in hinterland forests. Secondly, they should be telling people that it is quite likely they will NOT be warned and that they must themselves take responsibility for finding out what is going on and having a sensible plan of action, including evacuation to a safe place well before a situation becomes remotely dangerous.  In my view both of these actions will have greater value than spending millions of dollars on “technological-fix” bushfire warning systems.

The fundamental message that our governments should be putting out is this: if you live in, or close to the Australian bush, you should expect to get a bushfire on a hot windy day in summer….. and be prepared for it. To rely on a government warning system is to rely on something that is inherently unreliable.

There is a final factor. As that wise anthropologist George Silberbauer has pointed out, we already have a system in which the Bureau of Meteorology puts out twice-daily fire danger forecasts and these are published on the net and broadcast on the news. Most country roads have Fire Danger warning signs. The problem is, few people understand fire danger, and the system is unduly complicated with six, and soon to be seven, categories. It is possible that if we had a more simple way of expressing the fire danger index, which is a warning in itself, and we ensured it was more effectively transmitted and better understood by the whole community, the new technological gizmos would not be needed.

Roger Underwood
August, 2009

Other articles by Roger Underwood: http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/author/roger-underwood/

63 Responses to Warnings about Bushfire Warnings: A Note from Roger Underwood

  1. sod August 30, 2009 at 9:27 pm #

    my first comment would be, that extremely biased “advice” is most often bad advice.

    Roger has decided, that fuel load is the one and only cause of current fires. that is, why he mentions that term 6 times in his article. he simply ignores a lot of other things. so please take his advice with caution.

    if you live in, or close to the Australian bush, you should expect to get a bushfire on a hot windy day in summer….. and be prepared for it.

    the truth is, that hot and windy days will increase. places will face conditions, that they have never experienced before.

  2. SJT August 30, 2009 at 11:11 pm #

    “if you live in, or close to the Australian bush, you should expect to get a bushfire on a hot windy day in summer….. and be prepared for it.”

    I thought the heat had nothing to do with it?

  3. Ian Mott August 31, 2009 at 11:17 am #

    A good article, Roger. Indeed, it must be said that anyone who did not get a warning about the Victorian fires must have had their head in a paper bag. I was gravely concerned by media coverage the day before from 2000km away, let alone being on the spot. Had they not even been outside their air conditioning that morning, or even the day before? Had they not noticed how the grass and leaves had completely desicated?

    I had considered the use of mobile text messaging as a quick and reliable means to advise my 21 neighbours whenever I need to do some cold winter burning. But our local, highly articulate, green bimbos have objected to every proposal for a mobile tower. And that means I must spend two or three evenings calling each individual, or use snail mail, which can delay the process beyond the best windows for action.

    And it remains the case that in the event that an ember might jump a containment line and burn towards the house of someone that I have informed, but who has done nothing to protect their own property, even against a very mild winter fire, they can sue me for damage to assets that they have done nothing to protect. They have no underlying duty to take reasonable and practical steps to help themselves.

    In fact, there are people scattered all over rural communities who would regard someone else’s fire as an excellent opportunity to replace their ramshackle, termite ridden work of “new age artistic splendour” with a nice new and expensive alternative courtesy of their well meaning farming neighbour who is acting in utmost good faith. A fire would not even need to cross containment lines. The mere fact of the fire taking place up wind would provide sufficient cover for someone else to light their own “insurance fire” and put all the blame on the person doing the hazard reduction.

    This focus on warning systems is a smoke screen to obscure the critical fact of gross mismanagement, both in a policy sense and on the ground where the fuel loads accumulate.

  4. Roger Underwood August 31, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    In response to Sod and SJT:

    1. Yes, many factors contribute to fire danger and bushfire damage. When it is hot and dry, fire ignition is more likely, when it is windy and the topography is steep, fires move more rapidly, and when you have heavy fuels, fires are more intense and more likely to throw spotfires. It is the high intensity fires that are the hardest to suppress, are the most dangerous to firefighters, and cause the most damage. I challenge any commentator on this site to provide evidence that fire intensity is not higher in heavy than in light fuels.

    2. Perhaps the computer scenarios are correct and it is going to get hotter and drier. If so, we need to be better prepared. Good preparation will involve many things (and I set these out in my note), one of which is fuel reduction. It is part of the package, albeit a critical part when you are dealing with fire management in eucalypt forests.

    3. Obviously some form of bushfire warning system is required. My point is that we should not be building an expectation that the existance of a system will automatically make people safer. It will be extremely difficult to come up with a foolproof system, let alone to get people to listen to the warning and then take appropriate action.

    4. For these reasons, I think the authorities should focus on building bushfire resilient communities, not overdoing the warning business.

    Roger Underwood

  5. Ian Bevege August 31, 2009 at 2:06 pm #

    Thanks Roger for a well considered dit, and to Ian Mott for his supportive, and typically “Mott-coloured” response, which highlights the ongoing problem of well-meaning green rural residents who remain in denial over the realities of the environment they choose to live in – where unholy combinations of weather, fuels and landscape mismanagement at all levels from individual householders through councils and public agencies to governments results in the blow-up conditions experienced in Victoria earlier this year. Conditions are heading that way on the NSW south coast – as we chatter on this blog, there are severe bush fires right now at Tilba and Ulladulla. And it is only August, temperatures are in the mid 20s and it hasn’t rained since mid June. The fire season has been brought forward by a month to 1 September.

    My worry is that the focus of the Royal Commission in its interim report is on warning systems and not even a shot across the bows on fuel management or response organisation; ie focussing on symptoms rather than causes. Roger has succinctly highlighted the problematic issues associated with warning systems and the danger that these might lull people into a false sense of security in a highly volatile and dangerous running fire environment. We need to stop and consider why so much thought and potentially funding, is going into a complicated, and therefore certainly not fail safe warning system, when a concerted investment of organisation, resources and energy into realistic fuel management would tackle the basic cause of the problem – fuel load. No fuel, no fire even in extreme weather conditions. We can’t do much about the weather except improve our ability for prediction, but we can do something about fuel management at household, community and landscape level. One hopes that the Royal Commission will be fair dinkum about that in its next report.

    Perhaps we actually need one of Ian Mott’s “arsonist insurance scenarios” played out in the courts to nail this one once and for all.

  6. SJT August 31, 2009 at 5:23 pm #

    “In response to Sod and SJT:”

    I am constantly told here that the temperature has nothing to do with it, it’s all about fuel for the fire.

  7. Bronson August 31, 2009 at 7:56 pm #

    And your point is SJT?
    Fuel quantity = intensity
    Temperature = heat. Heat increases the ease of ignition.

  8. Ian Thomson August 31, 2009 at 8:11 pm #

    One hundred percent dead right . On black saturday I parked my car backward in the carport ,in NSW! Because of the readily available , terrifying , information about the wind. My kids and I were geared up to bolt, seriously. I do not live in a heavily timbered area, I live in open country, but THE FORECAST !!! I am reminded of 2 Sydney- Hobart races . Blown to bits and it was the fault of designers and forecasters . On both occasions it was obvious to a country person , that there was a BAD forecast.
    On the first , we lit the open fire on boxing day and watched them sail out.
    The solution is EDUCATION .

  9. Atomic Hairdryer August 31, 2009 at 8:47 pm #

    Timely example of fire hazards here-


    with a view from UCLA’s solar observatory looking towards a fair chunk of Los Angeles’ TV and radio transmission masts. Radio parts include relays from the surrounding area providing part of LA’s emergency services infrastructure. I’d been to that site a few years ago and commented on the lack of fire breaks, which seemed rather hazardous given all the natural fuel shown here-


    Along with unnatural, like diesel for backup generators to all the technical sites on top of Mt Wilson.

  10. Beano August 31, 2009 at 9:09 pm #

    Lets learn a little from history – the 1939 fires. The state burned from one end to the other. The smoke was so intense the north wind picked up embers and smoke and transported it to King island where all the forests were obliterated. The smoke and embers made it to Tasmania where more fires were set.

    Much of the same areas devastated were also leveled in 1939. Narbathong had many casualties in these recent fires and in 1939.

    In 1939 my relatives lost property in North east Victoria and in the Yea and Alexandra areas.

    The recent fires were the worst in history for lives lost however far from actual area devastated.

    The simple fact is that there are more people living in rural areas – especially in semi rural areas near to outer suburbs now than in 1939.

    Victoria has some of the worst – if not worst bushfire prone areas in the whole world. If you live in this zone you must face this reality.

    As regards communications. A northern Melbourne suburb which is serviced by the metropolitan rail network was under attack. It was saved largely by a wind shift. A friend had a house up a winding bush road. On the day of the fire there were no communications – no land lines, no cellular service, no electricity. He left it to late to leave. He did get out. The smoke was so intense he was lucky to make it – half his property was burnt. This was a green leafy outer suburb.

  11. RWFOH August 31, 2009 at 10:35 pm #

    I despair at the lack of capacity to extrapolate from clear danger signs. High wind, extreme heat, longest drought in white history.

    I can understand that recent migrants, and city people who have moved to rural and semi-rural areas, may not have learned the lesson first hand or from generational experience, but fair dinkum, the “no-one warned us” defence/whinge tries my patience to breaking point. Want us to wipe your …. too?

    Self-preservation is your own responsibility. Being aware of your surroundings and constant monitoring of your environment and circumstances is your best defence. A forecast such as was issued for Black Saturday was advance warning that you should seek a safer environment if there was any doubt in your mind.

    Now that the rednecks have panicked the spineless state Labor government into a chop-and-burn-athon (knowing fully that this was purely cosmetic and a political point scoring opportunity and will have no measurable benefit given existing environmental conditions), I’m sure you will all put your hands up to claim partial responsibility for the false sense of security instilled when the inevitable occurs? Then again, BS will have seared a lesson on our collective memory that should keep us safe for a year or two and you can attribute that to the chop-and-burn-athon.

    You’ll be pleased to know that frb’s are going great guns…budgets being blown, labour hours through the roof, burning in remote areas, in least important vectors, opening up the forest to wind and sun, drying it out and priming it real good. Still, it’s that dry that we can burn in winter now and it has the ecological benefits of what was once a spring/autumn burn. It’ll be a pity to see all that hard work go up in smoke (again) when a crown fire rips through anyway.

    I guess we should just be grateful that the world has been cooling since 1998?

  12. George Silberbauer August 31, 2009 at 10:46 pm #

    In response to Roger Underwood’s post about bushfire warnings, it’s not only because he was kind enough to call me “a wise anthropologist” (a prime oxymoron, in the eyes of many !) that I endorse all that he has said.

    My position is influenced by a bit more than 70 years of fighting fires on 3 continents. a hectic half of them with Victoria’s CFA, by havng been burnt out on Ash Wednesday, and by several years of research into the behaviour of both bushfires and people when they meet. I’ve done consultancies for CFA into major bushfires and spent several years as a member of a group that devised, established and has operated a sucessful bushfire alert system in a particularly fireprone part of the very fire-prone Dandenongs where terrain and dense, tall forest preclude the usual visual warnings of the proximity of a fire.

    My views, and the arguments for them are expressed in my submission to the Royal Commission and appear on its web site (click “view submissions”). They are wholly consistent with what Roger has written.

    As we all know, bushfires vary in their severity. Informed and thoughtful use of the Bureau’s twice-daily forecasts of forest and grass fire danger ratings can give a useful and generally reliable indication of their severity. It is beyond question that, in a fire of anything like the fierceness of that of Black Saturday, many warnings of less than a couple of hours’ notice will only amount to intimation of the means of the recipients’ deaths. In any shorter span of time they are unlikely to be able to grab whatever they regard as essential (the rest of the family, pets, documents, photos, little Johnny’s Playstation, little Lucy’s iPod….etc), pack them into the car, ute… whatever, then decide on the escape route, and thread their way through the ensuing traffic to safety from a fire that is advancing rapidly and erratically. THAT’S HOW IT HAPPENS.

    Any fool can tell people WHAT to do (e.g. “stay and defend, or evacuate”). The trick lies in telling them HOW to do it.

    All the technology is very helpful, and all strength and praise to those who devise and use it. But none of it is of any use at all unless the fire-threatened public knows how to interpret fire danger ratings and how to respond to the warnings. Ash Wednesday, Black Saturday, Canberra…. all the major bushfires showed that not nearly enough people had that knowledge and/or the ability to apply it. The really difficult, and desperately-needed technology is how to recognise and prepare for, and to enable people to make appropriate and effective responses to the threat of bushfire. It’s about how to prevent the fires, how to mitigate their intensity when they happen, when and how to defend, and when and how to evacuate.

    The means are known. They lie in such programmes as Bushfire Blitz and Community Fireguard. But they must be expertly and rigorously applied – AND MAINTAINED. It’s time-consuming for everybody, costs a lot of labour for which $$$ must be found and, frankly (I’ve done it !) can be pretty tiresome. But without that, all the yew-bewt electronics, politicians’ posturing and fire authorities’ derriere-decor will do nothing to reduce the number of casualties and extent of loss.

  13. Ian Mott September 1, 2009 at 1:05 pm #

    The usual ignorance from RWFOH who seriously believes that “rednecks” have had a win in the inquiry when fuel reduction was not even mentioned in the recommendations.
    and yet again we have these forest illiterati who know jack $hit about forest moisture fluxes.

    So let me spell this out. The overwhelmingly dominant driver of soil and understorey moisture is the uptake of available moisture by plants through transpiration. Gross evaporation from wind passing through the vegetation is a minescule portion of the total moisture budget. And it follows that alterations in the volume of evaporation after partial vegetation removal and increased wind speed are only a minor part of that miniscule portion.

    Get this into your tiny brain, assorted numb nuts, understorey evaporation can only take place when moisture is present on exposed surfaces. And once an exposed surface is no longer wet then evaporation slows, and eventually ceases.

    So this ignorant green line that fuel reduction burning is, as RWFOH claimed, “opening up the forest to wind and sun, drying it out and priming it real good”, is not supported by any serious research or even common logic. Indeed, the evidence is overwhelming that a forests use of available moisture is directly related to the total leaf area, including understorey leaf area.

    The moisture budget of a forest is made up of total rainfall and dew fall, less the portion retained on leaf surfaces, and less run-off, leaving captured soil moisture and ground water flows.

    So when a portion of trees are removed, or when understorey vegetation is removed by fuel reduction burning, or grazing, or even mowing, any soil moisture from a given rainfall event will, in the short to medium term, last longer in-situ because the remaining leaf area is unable to transpire it any faster. This means the resource lasts longer between rainfall events and this maintains the moisture content of the leaves and bark for longer. This makes the trees healthier, more able to tollerate extreme heat and shortens the window of high risk moisture deficit.

    It also means that new understorey regrowth is fresher, moister and substantially less combustible, for much longer, than the large volume of dead vegetation that was there previously. This is especially so in the first year or two after hazard reduction when very little dead vegetation is present at all.

    So lets keep it short and simple. Understorey evaporation only takes place from exposed, moist surfaces, and then only for a few days after a rainfall event. It is a very minor part of the moisture budget to begin with and even large changes in the understorey evaporation rate caused by increased wind speed and exposure merely speed up its rate and shorten the period of it’s relevance. It has absolutely ZERO relevance to fire behaviour in as little as 24 hours after it ceases, let alone two or three months later in a mid summer wildfire.

    So let there be absolutely zero room for ambiguity here. Polite language would fail to convey the full and fair truth of the matter. The people making vague mutterings about dried out understorey after hazard reduction activities are grossly ignorant, if not delusional, morons talking through their ass. It is the most effective means available to identify complete boofheads who are totally out of their depth. They are extremely dangerous incompetents.

  14. Ian Mott September 1, 2009 at 4:22 pm #

    Thanks, Ian Bevege, but don’t get your hopes up. There is a serious cognitive failure out there and it is reflected in the inquiries outcomes.

    Just two weeks ago I was gobsmacked to find myself having to justify, to my local Brigade Captain, the concept of “strategic gaps” in the forest cover. I had started by informing a public meeting that none of the relevant (non- avian, non-aquatic) species on the local threatened species list were incapable of crossing a 1000 metre gap in forest canopy and consequently, there was no valid environmental risk in establishing lesser gaps in the local forest estate at strategic points that would assist with major fire control.

    I had anticipated some resistance from the Parks rep and the RFS local staffer, and of course some of the greens. But I could not believe it when the brigade Captain and one of the crew both opposed the whole idea based on the argument that such a gap would not deliver assured safety in a mega fire. On that gonzo logic we would not have containment lines, Asset Protection Zones, sprinkler systems or any other features that have proven their worth in hundreds of milder fires and can make a huge difference to survival odds when combined in the face of major fires.

    The Captain then informed me that he would not be caught dead up a particular road that I had suggested might be a good location for such a gap. And the hairs on the back of my head stood up as it dawned on me that the absence of major fires in our district for more than 30 years meant that we had not the slightest idea of how dependable our local unit might actually be in a serious situation. Would they even show up if they were really needed?

    more to follow later.

  15. Ron Pike September 1, 2009 at 5:18 pm #

    Thank you Roger for another reasoned article on Aust. bushfires and protection for the people
    who live in these areas.
    Having been a member of a rural Bush Fire Brigade all of my adult life, I agree with everthing you have written on this subject.
    I also support the comments of Ian Mott and in so doing it seems that most posters who have any practical knowledge in this area are basically agreed as to what are the best management practices and how they should be implemented.
    Unfortunately it seems that uninformed ranting by the likes of sod, SJT and RWFOH (Right Wing Festival of Hate), is in accord with the policies demanded by the Political Greens of the Labour Party, in return for preferences at State elections.
    The fact that you pop onto this site whenever Bush Fires become the topic and then post with ludicrous comments as above.
    Makes me suspect you actually get some enjoyment out of a fire.
    Just a thought.

  16. RWFOH September 1, 2009 at 5:47 pm #

    Mott, I suppose you fiercely contest the science underpinning the practice of mulching? Clown.

  17. Tim C September 1, 2009 at 8:10 pm #

    RWFOH obviously has not been out in the scrub to see the amount of litter(mulch) on the ground, and then tested his theory as it applies in this scenerio.
    By scraping the mulch away yoy would see the low moisture content underneath, and ifyou would scrape a little further, you would find a mass of roots that belong to the trees that are drawing the water into the foliage where it is transpiring, just as those with a greater understanding of real environmental issues are trying to explain to you.
    It is a good idea to ask questions first, unless you already have a practical understanding of the situation.
    Of course mulching in a situation where smaller plants with a less extensive root mat, will be more effective in water conservation, but we are talking about a scrub situation, not your back yard garden.

  18. RWFOH September 1, 2009 at 10:53 pm #

    Tim, it appears that you are another pretentious twit intent on making a goose of yourself with fallacious arguments constructed around “appeal to authority”.

    Litter and understorey :

    – slow air movement and prevent direct sunlight on the ground thus reducing evaporation.

    – decay via organic process and facilitate tilth and, consequently, water penetration and holding potential in soil.

    – slow run-off and thereby allow more water to penetrate while limiting a/ the amount of water lost to direct run-off and, b/ erosion – which in a post fire scenario is likely to be comprised of ash derived from the organic elements essential to healthy soil and soil structure (see second point) as well as inorganic particles.

    We could also talk about fires creating hydrophobicity in soil here as well. Or the impact of fire on microbial communities and the long term effects on soil health.

    These are all empirically verifiable processes. It is hard science. They are facts not some folksy ‘salt of the land’ BS from half-witted, inbred hicks from the backwoods.

    Why did the elevated wet forests and riparian communities of Victoria have such long fire intervals before we started logging them? Why were they so valuable in mitigating fires on landscape scale before we started logging and burning them?

    I’ll give you a clue, it’s related to hydrological gradients. Start by looking at a Kuczera curve. It will mean pulling your head out of your rear end but at least you will be dealing with “real environmental issues”.

  19. bronson September 1, 2009 at 11:22 pm #

    RWFOH – whoa slow down there fella you are one confused puppy. You’ve managed to mix up forest types wet and dry and how fire interacts with the two types, ignored canopy leaf area and its effect on transpiration, confused fire intensity around hydrophobicity (an effect of intense bushfire) and then topped it off again with confusion about the Kuczera curve and its application (its effect is shown in wet forest only after stand replacement events it is much less evident in dry forest). You really need to go and do a bit of study and sort yourself out!

  20. RWFOH September 2, 2009 at 12:20 am #

    You lot are like mushrooms.

    “You’ve managed to mix up forest types wet and dry and how fire interacts with the two types,”


    “ignored canopy leaf area and its effect on transpiration,”


    “confused fire intensity around hydrophobicity (an effect of intense bushfire)”

    Wrong. Soil hydrophobicity is a result of a number of factors, not solely fire intensity.

    “confusion about the Kuczera curve and its application (its effect is shown in wet forest only after stand replacement events it is much less evident in dry forest)”


    I mentioned the Kuczera curve to highlight the effect of deforestation on hydrological systems. I figured even a simpleton would get the connection between moisture content in the vegetation profile and fire mitigation. Apparently not. The clue is in the preceding paragraph.

    There’s confusion alright. What were you on when you served up that tripe?

  21. Tim C September 2, 2009 at 7:59 am #

    RWFOH I seem to have hit a nerve. For you instead of accepting on-ground facts, have to resort to abuse.
    We are in the process where a Governtment department has made the sort of comments like yours- from theorising academics on grants and payrolls, who thought farmers were taking environmental water.
    They rattled about taking down stream users water, and the environmental use, farmers greed etc. A plan was drawn up whereby nearly 1/2 the area was said to be overallocated on water use.
    It took a few of your “pretentious twits”, to point out that if the same figuring that these “experts” applied, was applied to the adjoining 99.9 % native vegetation catchment, with no farm dams, and that also had nearly 40 years of stream flow data, that the scrub was overallocated by an much larger portion than the developed land that they whinged about.
    Consequently the experts have egg on their face and are madly trying to justify their poor behaviour.
    Perhaps you should climb down to earth to see how the real earth operates, for flowery speech and ideals are completely ignored by both fire and water, for they, along with those who observe the facts, are part of the real world.

  22. RWFOH September 2, 2009 at 9:25 am #

    See Tim? You offer another ‘down home’ anecdotal homily about “on-ground facts” but offer nothing with scientific merit to dispute the points I made.

    As for “resorting to abuse”, I quickly learned that you don’t come here for a polite debate. Any departure from the dogmatic script will see you called all sorts of names. You lot like to dish it out…

    Nerves have been hit alright but I fully expected that when I kicked the “on-ground facts” spit and mud facade of redneck orthodoxy.

    (BTW Bronson, the issue of transpiration is not entirely irrelevant, increased soil and ambient air temp will accelerate evapo-transpiration rates thereby exacerbating dehydration)

  23. RWFOH September 2, 2009 at 10:06 am #

    “Get this into your tiny brain, assorted numb nuts, understorey evaporation can only take place when moisture is present on exposed surfaces. And once an exposed surface is no longer wet then evaporation slows, and eventually ceases.”

    Mott, have you heard of capillary action, adhesion and cohesion?

    If so, please provide a technical explanation as to why you believe bare earth has slower evaporation rates than mulched soil (i.e. soil protected by litter and understory)

    Then there is the paragraph beginning with, “So when a portion of trees are removed…” According to the logic in that statement, the creation of the Sahara desert is a masterstroke in soil moisture retention.

    Geez, you know, on re-reading that entire comment, I’m astounded by your ignorance and utter stupidity. It is riddled with factual error but what should I expect from a demented fool?

  24. Tim C September 2, 2009 at 10:08 am #

    The best evidence has and always will be based on “down home” evidence.
    We are talking here about environmental issues.

    Where does your text book get its data from?

    Shall I also explain that due to the people who you said were,

    ” folksy ’salt of the land’ BS from half-witted, inbred hicks from the backwoods.”

    are actually the ones who opposed the misinformed environmental movement, who would stop burning which they misconstrued as land clearing.

    Finally after years of raising the issues of biodiversity decline (Not contained in textbooks but known by the “half witted inbred hicks”), the first public/private fire trial was conducted on my property, after someone in the department with a bit of courage and persistence, was abe to convince higher authorities to conduct a trial.

    The govermental scientific official result: An additional 100 plant species regenerated due to the fire. So do you want people with feet on the ground experience to advise on reality, or to continue with hypothetical arguments?

    I’ll settle for ancedotal evidence that is backed up by data myself. What would you do?

  25. Tim C September 2, 2009 at 10:52 am #

    RWFOH Re more moisture under native understory than bare earth.

    A number of issues.

    Firstly the total leaf area and branches bark etc stop huge volumes of rainfall ever even getting into the soil profile. It evaporates from these areas very readily as has been described.

    Secondly the vegetation dry the top soil through transpiration extremely quickly, whether there is mulch or not.

    I have been researching this subject myself and have picture evidence of water filled depressions in the pasture, bare ground in the root zone adjacent to the trees with no water in the depressions, and litter filled depressions within the scrub, once again, with with no water.

    If you really want to know, and will not accept others antedotal, pictorial and data evidence, then best thing is get on your hands and knees and have a look for yourself.

    The issue of reduced streamflows in native vegetation does occur, for just as you mentioned, the litter does slow the water runoff so that it soaks down and most is subsequently transpired.

    This is exactly why farmers are ticked of by those who say that farmers are taking environmental water, when they are collecting the “farm storm water” that is generated from their cleared farmland.

    The water within bushland quickly evaporates again and does not stay to reduce fire hazard!

    Aren’t we talking about fires when humidities are low in the summer time?

  26. RWFOH September 2, 2009 at 10:54 am #

    What you are doing Tim is confusing areas with a history of different fire intervals. You’ve fallen into the old trap of blanket prescriptions.

    I don’t doubt that exclusion of fire from areas that had a relatively short fire interval will have an adverse effect on biodiversity, the question relevant to my point is, what will happen to biodiversity if you make fire intervals shorter than what that area’s biodiversity had adapted to?

    Too much fire or too little, both have the capacity to greatly affect ecological processes.

    I’m talking about fire in the context of Victorian forests where fire regimes were hugely variable and modern “management practices” threaten to destroy any natural and inherent fire mitigation capacity.

  27. Tim C September 2, 2009 at 11:52 am #

    RWFOH Well I will have to say, just as to those 25 years ago who did not know the intensity, frequency, humidity, wind speeds etc, and yet they opposed burning.

    So will the next lightning strike ask those questions?

    And most importantly what was the fire history before the fire regimes were changed (reduced) by volunteers who did not allow the fires to continue to burn till winter, or the coast, or previously recently burnt land stopped them naturally.

    Here we have encountered the same arguments as yours, but now people are realising that the standpoint of too much burning, is often taken from those who do not understand how regular it used to be.

    In one instance, which describes well the misconceptions, an “edangered plant showing up after 1 fire, was thought to be wiped out as the same area burnt again by naturally occuring lightning only a few years after the first.

    Prior to the first burn none were apparent, after the burn a few were evident, and in trepidation and fear of extinction, researchers then found wall to wall plants regenerated after the second fire.
    The rare and endangered were only that way because of the “hands off, stop all fires” approach.

    Surely we can all see now that a policy of long periods between burns is historically false!

    Perhaps we need to get out of the texbooks and into the feild, and if we have not the time or historical background, then listen to those who are on the ground!

  28. Ian Mott September 2, 2009 at 8:20 pm #

    RWFOH should check out the entire body of work from the CRC for Catchment Hydrology before he opens his moronic mouth. But no, he merges a bit of “mother earth news” standard gardening homilly with forest management and seriously believes he has discovered an absolute truth.

    No-one is saying that mulch won’t reduce evaporation from bare soil but the volumes involved are only statistically relevant in gardens and crops where planted vegetation is expanding TOWARDS the point of site dominance. This is very much removed from the situation in a standing forest where the existing trees are fully capable of capturing all soil moisture. And in any event, the major moisture retention service provided by mulch is in the retardation of weed growth that would compete for soil moisture.

    And in respect of hydrophobic soilos, I can distinctly remember a discussion with Dr John Raison of CSIRO, at the Orbost workshop on regrowth forest management, where one of the major benefits of fire in forest regeneration was THE CORRECTION OF HYDROPHOBIC SOIL LAYERS. So would you kindly crawl your primordially slimy way at least part of the way up the forest ecology learning curve before you darken these pages again.

    But before you go I would like to thank you for so readily resorting to metrotyranical terms like “redneck”. For that has always been the first refuge of transplanted urban daytrippers like yourself who lack the intellectual traction to justify their prejudices. I shall be forwarding your details to the “rednecks” in your local bushfire brigade so they can form their own opinion as to whether you and your house and property are really worth risking their lives to protect. You do realise that they are volunteers, don’t you, and they have every right decide who they will provide their free service to.

  29. RWFOH September 3, 2009 at 10:23 am #

    There’s so much wrong with what you lot have written that it’s hard to know where to start.

    “No-one is saying that mulch won’t reduce evaporation from bare soil but the volumes involved are only statistically relevant in gardens and crops where planted vegetation is expanding TOWARDS the point of site dominance. This is very much removed from the situation in a standing forest where the existing trees are fully capable of capturing all soil moisture. And in any event, the major moisture retention service provided by mulch is in the retardation of weed growth that would compete for soil moisture.”

    The above is a real clanger but that’s the usual calibre of Mott’s contributions.

    With regard to the first sentence, I would have thought a forest represents “site dominance”? If you could just provide me with these references that discusses the ‘statistical relevance’ of mulching in “gardens and crops where planted vegetation is expanding TOWARDS the point of site dominance”, we could start discussing the effect of ‘mulching’ in the overall hydrology of a forest.

    In the second sentence you write “This is very much removed from the situation in a standing forest where the existing trees are fully capable of capturing all soil moisture.”

    This assertion is so ridiculous, it defies comprehension. Even without the mountain of papers on forest hydrology, common sense suggests there would be no rivers or creeks in forests if the statement was correct.

    On the contrary, the older a forest gets, the more water it yields. All the evidence contradicts your simplistic assertion.

    Lastly, you say that mulching is only valuable in eliminating weeds that compete for soil moisture. Absolute bullsh!t!

    Research in Ash forests suggest evaporation from leaf litter accounts for 14% of annual evapotranspiration. If moisture evaporates from bare earth at twice the rate of mulched soil, the figure for evaporation from soil could easily rise to 30% of total annual evapotranspiration. Tell me that’s not significant in a period of drying climate. And you rednecks think burning these forests on a regular basis will help? As usual you’ll eff things up. Situation normal.

  30. Ian Mott September 3, 2009 at 10:40 am #

    Further to my above post on understorey evaporation, it should be noted that when determining soil moisture balances, the BoM assume that any rainfall event less than 3mm will not actually make it into the soil. This is the amount generally required to cover all exposed surfaces in a landscape and it is this that is subsequently evaporated by wind and dappled sunlight over the following few days.

    So when clowns like RWFOH start bull$hitting about increases in understorey evaporation from hazard reduction it is fairly easy to determine what the actual volume of water involved will be and when it takes place. You just multiply the number of discrete rainfall events (with 2 or 3 day gaps in between) and multiply by 3mm. So a typical Victorian winter with gentle rains over a number of days will basically only wet the vegetation once and stay wet until a dry spell comes.

    The remainder of the total rainfall will either go to run-off or to soil moisture and transpiration. Readers with their own records can easily work out the proportions for their own area and advise us.

    Got to go for now.

  31. Ian Mott September 3, 2009 at 10:10 pm #

    Which research are you refering to RWFOH? Name your sources and provide the direct quote, slime ball.

    Yes, a forest is close to site dominance, as I indicated. And your call for for a research paper on the extent to which vegetables in a crop or garden are moving towards site dominance fools no-one. Most people have no problem comprehending the fact that a mature crop of sugar cane has achieved site dominance while a half grown crop of cabbages that has yet to crowd out weeds etc has not achieved site dominance. The presence of mulch under the mature cane crop has minimal impact on ground evaporation while mulch in the cabbage patch will have an impact because the leaf area of the cabbages are still far from the maximum potential of the site.

    And it should also be starting to dawn on your tiny brain that the contribution of mulch in a garden is exagerated due to the likelihood of frequent watering. That is, the number of equivalent rainfall events has been increased artificially and this exagerates the importance of mulch. But all you need to do is leave your veggie garden to rely on natural rainfall right through a typical Victorian summer and you will soon discover how much moisture has been retained by undisturbed mulch. Absolute Jack $hit, in fact.

    You ponce about here making noises that might be mistaken (by another metrocentric moron) for intelligent discourse but it fools no-one. By mid-summer in Victorian forests any moisture in understorey vegetation and leaf litter is long gone. If you continue to doubt this fact then you need to show us some hard research on the length of the intervals between rainfall events. If not, then on ya bike, boofhead.

  32. RWFOH September 4, 2009 at 12:19 am #

    “Microlysimeter and evaporation dome techniques were used to measure soil and litter
    evaporation (Qe) in 10 and 235 year old mountain ash forest during five 24 h measurement
    periods spaced through the year.

    By combining these values with transpiration and interception rates reported
    in the literature, Qe in 235 year old forest was estimated to account for 13% of annual
    evapotranspiration, while in 10 year old forest it was estimated to account for 14% of
    annual evapotranspiration.”

    “Although most investigations concentrate on the plant component of evapotranspiration, those that have considered soil and litter evaporation in forest have produced some interesting findings. Kelliher et al. (1992), working in New Zealand broad-leaved forest, found that soil and litter evaporation accounted for 10-20% of stand evapotranspiration. Denmead (1984) also found that soil and litter evaporation was important in Australian exotic pine forest and could contribute 10-27% of total evapotranspiration on most days, and up to 40% after rain. Similarly,
    Lafleur and Schreader (1994) reported that soil and litter evaporation in a Canadian subarctic spruce forest accounted for an average of 30% of the total stand evapotranspiration.”

    McJannet, D., Vertessy, R., Tapper, N., O’Sullivan, S., Beringer, J., and Cleugh, H. (1996). Soil and litter evaporation beneath re-growth and old-growth mountain ash forest.CRCCH Report 96/1. Victoria, Australia: Monash University.

    You’re on a hiding to nothing by trying to downplay the value of mulch in limiting evaporation. You’re swinging wildly and blindly but you ain’t goin’ nowhere.

    The longer moisture is retained in a forest, the less likely it is to burn. The wet old growth forests at higher elevations in Victoria had fire intervals stretching into the hundreds of years. The understory can also be hundred of years old and is often made up of rainforest species that would have been killed had fires occurred.

    Every time these forests are logged or burned they become drier and more susceptible to future fire events. Over two hundred years we have systematically dehumidified these forests which have previously acted as natural barriers to mega fires. We could hardly have done a better job of priming these forests for mega fires if we had tried.

    And we haven’t even started on the impacts that frequent fire cycle has on soil flora and fauna in these forests. Researchers are only just starting to delve into this labyrinthine realm.

    How quickly do sff populations recover after fire? Do fuel loads increase more rapidly when sff is depleted after fire? How are myccorhizal associations and ground dwelling species affected? How does loss of nutrients and erosion affect forest health after repeated burning? How does the destruction of humus by fire affect soil’s ability to store and hold water? What role does sff play in maintaining soil health? Why does fuel loading (litter and understory) have an upper limit of around 70 t/ha, i.e. what’s going on at the bottom of the leaf litter at the interface with the soil?

    You knobs can’t even tell the difference between an open grassy woodland and a high elevation wet sclerophyll forest. It’s all the same to you, you just want to burn it.

  33. Ian Mott September 4, 2009 at 10:36 am #

    Just as expected. The usual partial and fragmentary assemblages of facts from RWFOH who clearly does not understand the relevance of the research he quotes. Five selected 24 hour periods within a single year is supposed to be conclusive evidence? Give us a break. These studies tell us nothing about the conditions on the ground, the management history or any of a whole range of variables. And they do not have anything as rudimentary as a control group to determine the impact of alterations in leaf litter, understorey vegetation or overstorey.

    You continue to miss the point, these are single snapshots of a continuous process. Evaporation is high immediately after a rainfall event and declines markedly the longer the interval is before the next one.

    More importantly, even if evaporation accounted for a constant 14% of transpiration, it does not alter the fact that transpiration will still account for the remaining 86%. And by, for example, reducing the leaf area of the canopy by partial harvesting, the transpired portion will remain the same but the remaining trees will take longer to use that water. It will remain in the soil for longer thereby postponing the onset of moisture stress.

    It also follows that during those times when intervals between rainfall events are shorter, then the additional water will soak into a fuller existing soil moisture profile to produce an extended period of moisture availability in the next rain free interval. Some of it may end up as additional run-off, enhancing stream health. And of course, a portion of this additional moisture will be available for additional evaporation.

    Clearly, modifications to the forest that alter leaf area can produce extended transpiration moisture reserves and these extended reserves clearly outweigh minor contractions in the evaporation portion. It is not the percentage of evaporation that is important, it is the timing of it.

    So once more, nice and simple for the planet plodders;

    Reduced leaf area = reduced rate of water use.
    Reduced rate of water use = extended soil moisture reserves.
    Extended moisture reserves = wetter forest and healthier growth
    Extended moisture reserves = extended evaporation windows,
    Extended moisture reserves = shorter periods of moisture stress before the next rain event,
    Shorter periods of moisture stress = lower exposure to extreme fire risk
    Shorter periods of moisture stress = lower intensity of wild fires.

    Which, when combined with reduced fuel fuel loads from reduced leaf area and reduced understorey dry matter, produces a substantially safer forest for both humans and wildlife. And when we add the enhanced moisture retention capacity produced by additional charcoal from frequent cold hazard reduction burns we get unambiguously superior forest management with improved habitat quality.

  34. Ian Mott September 4, 2009 at 10:42 am #

    Oh, yes, and nothing improves soil fertility like periodic additions of potasium from mild fires and the enhanced microbial activity from extended soil moisture reserves. Trees in un-thinned regrowth forests compete so intensely for soil moisture that they deplete reserves much faster and microbes have less time to do their work. The longer the moisture is retained the more work they can do.

  35. RWFOH September 4, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    Dotty Motty, what proportion of the forest logged in Australia each year is selectively logged?

    What proportion of the forest logged in Victoria each year is selectively logged?

    When I say “selectively logged” I mean single tree selection, not one of the multitudinous descriptors for clearfelling as the benefits you posit rely on such a silvicultural system. I’ll be generous and even allow you to include thinning operations even though they are effectively still industrial clearfelling for all intents and purposes (as these operations occur at 20-30 years down here, the decrease in water yield as described in Kuczera curve still applies). On second thoughts, I’ll withdraw that, they leave a massive amount of slash lying around after thinning which is a huge fuel load and fire hazard. In most cases they can’t burn it because it would kill the remaining stand.

    How much timber and woodchips are produced from single tree selection in Australia Dotty?

    Kinda puts a hole in the whole “reducing the leaf area of the canopy by partial harvesting,” (which is the basis of your argument) doesn’t it?

    Isn’t it about time you addressed the points I raise rather than indulging in your strategies of avoidance and diversion?

  36. Allan September 4, 2009 at 2:31 pm #

    It dosn’t matter if the temperature is 35c or 40c.
    We can not change it.
    It dosn’t matter if the wind is blowing a gale.
    We can not stop it.
    It does not matter that there is a drought on.
    We can not make it rain.
    The only thing that we as land managers can effect is the fuel on the ground.
    We can only pick a time of year with mild weather contitions so that the fire intensity is milder than a wildfire.
    And the only certainty is that South East Australia will have fires no matter what anyone says
    and people it S.E. Australia have to accept that fire can start at any time and they need to be prepared.
    Look into a mirror to see the person who is responsible for your own safety.

  37. Ian Mott September 4, 2009 at 3:31 pm #

    Nice try at a side step RWFOH, but the impact of single tree selection is similar to understorey hazard reduction. Both produce immediate reductions in leaf area followed by gradual increase to full site occupation over a number of years. And obviously, the main benefit in moisture balance is found in years 1 and 2 with less in subsequent years. As under storey fuel levels increase, so moisture balance advantages decline.

    It should also be pointed out that the absence of leaf litter that you claim to be such an adverse outcome of hazard reduction burning will only last until the first dry spell when eucalypt forests in particular shed excess leaves to adjust their transpiration rate to the dryer season moisture balance. So just 3 or 4 months after a cool winter burn, there is a new layer of leaf litter, doing the same job as before.

    The proportion of Victorian forest subjected to thinning and partial harvest is low. But that is a direct consequence of the misguided, and murderous mismanagement of those forests by the green movement. To then use the consequences of that mismanagement to try and prove a technical issue is unfortunately consistent with your own and the green movement’s past record.

    So perhaps you would care to explain to us how a partial, and entirely temporary, leaf removal by cool burn could possibly be different to a partial and temporary leaf removal by partial harvesting?

    Lets face it, RWFOH, you and your murderous ideologue mates have been caught out, again. You describe a minor, temporary, change in moisture balance as if it were of major, enduring, impact. And you do all that you can to impede management processes, like fuel reduction and measured thinning of regrowth stands, that are proven to extend moisture budgets, shorten periods of moisture stress, and reduce the risk, frequency and intensity of wildfires.

    Good one, fellas, have you ever thought of helping the Taliban. With allies like you they would cease to be a problem in short order.

  38. RWFOH September 4, 2009 at 5:44 pm #

    You never let me down Dotty. I wonder and anticipate what the demented old coot has come up with each time I return to see what you’ve produced by way of “reply”. You’ve excelled yourself this time with your last effort. That’s spun gold. You’re wasting your comedic talents here.

    I don’t know how he does it. Just when I think he can’t get any more ludicrous he manages to pull a gem out of his butt.

    I’ve seen and heard environmentalists blamed for many things but I never expected them to be blamed for forcing the timber industry into broad scale clearfelling of forests. The poor old timber industry, all they want is to just do a little bit of ecologically sustainable selective logging and those nasty. “murderous” greenies keep making them log the bejesus out of anything and everything.

    I think I’m getting a bead on your schtick. I’m the earnest straight man to your lunatic whose outlandish behaviour parodies and ridicules dopey redneck extremists. You spout such nonsense and loopy platitudes that normal people assume all rednecks are mad as cut snakes and thick as two bricks and quietly move away and deny knowing the individual concerned.

    It’s working for me. Carry on.

  39. Tim C September 5, 2009 at 9:13 am #

    RWFOH you say you are the “earnest straight man”.
    Can you please explain how fires spread before white man came here and logged, caused drying out of the scrub(as you say), and thus have caused the fires to burn areas that never would have burned naturally.
    It should be easy for you to identify numerous areas that have never been logged and thus never been burned,… and in fact, never will burn based on your cause and effect statements.

    Of course these areas of scrub that have never been burned, must not be protected because of the work of volunteers who stopped fires extending other areas disrupted by mankind.

    They must be protected by purely natural causes.

    When you have done so, those who disagree will have to acnowledge your intellectual prowess. Until then I can only presume that you have no practical skill of observation.

    The Anthropogenic Firestorms that you describe, is another of those positive feedbacks that some people use to perputrate the ideal that mankind is a cancer on the world.

    It is well documented that fire needs heat, oxygen, and fuel. All of the above occurs in nature, along with the ignition source.

    To make it safer for people who live in areas that provide food and clothing for the population, then we really can only control the fuel, to any good effect.

    As experience shows us, fires can, and do, burn more frequently in nature than the current thinking of many couch environmentalists.

    While a fire does not usually travel 100kms due to the great efforts of volunteers, prior to such there was no reason for it to stop, unless , rainfall, wind changes, the coast, or previously recently burnt land stops it.
    The fingers of fronts would criss cross etc and in some ways protect islolated pockets of scrub that could retain unburnt scrub for much longer periods. I will stress isolated.

    If you have copies of fire maps with overlays of historical recorded fires, you will easly understand these natural principles.

    For those who genuinely think that mankind population needs to be reduced and thus reduce the impacts on the environment, then go right ahead and do your own personal bit to save the planet.
    Take a long walk of a short jetty.
    The rest of us (family, friends and creditors excluded), may well welcome such self sacrifice.

    Unfortunately these people are unwilling to be effected by the changes they expect others to perform, and still expect the shops to carry their esentials to life, and all the benefits of modern living.
    Of couse if the prices went up to reflect the real cost of the change they say, we just see greater imports from countries who do not. We all know that the cost of higher wages and conditions, already pushes Aussie jobs to countries that do not have such high regard for their workers.

    As I said in a much earlier post. Most people do not understand that fire was much more frequent in the past, and biodiversity decline is a direct result of this.
    Our private/public environmental Fire Trial yeild an increase of 100 previously unrecorded plant species.

    So where does your text book get its data from?

  40. Ian Mott September 5, 2009 at 9:59 am #

    Good one, RWFOH, devise an imaginary argument, attribute it to me, and then smite it with your deep penetrating intellect. Readers will also have noted how the proportion of your posts devoted to the actual substance of the issue is less and less while the portion devoted to villification continues to rise.

    Does the first dry spell produce a new fall of leaf litter after a cold winter burn? Yep.
    Are modifications to understorey veg and leaf litter by cold burn temporary? Yep.
    Has RWFOH provided any research on the range of variation in evaporation rates due to changes in understorey veg and leaf litter over time? Nope.

    The facts are that changes in the understorey veg and leaf litter etc merely speed up or slow down the evaporation rate but they do not alter the fact that by mid-summer there is very little moisture left. Once again, the murderous green ideologues have presented a temporary phenomena as if it were a permanent state and then implied that the rate of evaporation in August has a bearing on fire intensity in February.

  41. Tim C September 5, 2009 at 8:43 pm #

    I missed the last bit of my last post.

    Corrected version

    As I said in a much earlier post. Most people do not understand that fire was much more frequent in the past, and biodiversity decline is a direct result of this reduced fire regime.

    Our private/public environmental Fire Trial yeild an increase of 100 previously unrecorded plant species.

    So where does your text book get its data from?

  42. Ian Mott September 5, 2009 at 9:05 pm #

    Very good point, Tim. But RWFOH lives in a world of virtual forests, every one of them pristine. And he rides forth like some sad “Dung Coyote” to save them from reality. Pity him. For pathetic as it may be, it is all he has in life.

  43. Bruce September 5, 2009 at 9:17 pm #

    Hmmm, dignity and decorum seem optional in this debate for a couple of people.

    Now, about which forests do we speak? Dry sclerophyll, wet sclerophyll?

    What was the nominal nature of the “forests” so catastrophically burned a few short months ago?

    Has anyone ever noticed that when eucalypt leaves burn, they give off dark smoke? A little surplus flammable material, perhaps?

    Real rain forests, of which there are very few in Australia, are WET, very WET and decidedly hard to ignite. I suspect that this has something to do with the ummmm..rain. If you can’t set your watch daily by the deluge, it probably isn’t a rain forest.

    The country is not some uniform green carpeted blob. There are macro and micro biomes. Wheels within wheels, woods and trees.

    We need a lot more situational awareness and a lot less situational ethics.

  44. RWFOH September 5, 2009 at 11:53 pm #

    Dotty, you reckon I falsely attributed an argument to you? This is what you wrote:

    “The proportion of Victorian forest subjected to thinning and partial harvest is low. But that is a direct consequence of the misguided, and murderous mismanagement of those forests by the green movement. ”

    Now, given that clearfelling (also known under various greenwash silvicultural terms, e.g. group selection, shelterwood, seed tree etc.) is the preferred and dominant logging method of the timber industry and DSE, and is a system roundly condemned by virtually every conservationist in the state, how can conservationists be blamed for the widespread application of this system? On the contrary, if you can find any conservationists that accepts native forest logging of any type, they will promote selective logging. Ironically, the same system you advocated here in one of your previous comments.

    Just another example of your intellectual dishonesty or stupidity? Probably a bit of both going on your form. Or are you really a closet greenie?

    And there’s plenty of examples where you fail to make the logical corollary on your own statement, e.g.:

    “Does the first dry spell produce a new fall of leaf litter after a cold winter burn? Yep.”

    OK, in a roundabout way you acknowledge the benefit of limiting evaporation. The first point then is that the benefits of frb’s only last between 2 and 7 years depending on various factors. If you have to burn at that frequency, you will be exacerbating the problems with frb that I described earlier. Second, any leaf fall in the immediate aftermath of a frb will provide limited benefit in limiting evaporation. Mulch is most effective when it is a few inches deep at which point you would be burning it anyway as part of a 2-7 year fr rotation. (You also didn’t answer why fuel loads max out at around 70t/ha)

    Your obsession with reducing ground fuel might be useful if it was only ground fuel that was a significant issue on BS. It wasn’t. The Murrundindi fire started in paddocks, raced up a hill in a fuel reduced forest, and was absolutely unstoppable within 30 minutes.

    You also accused me of failing to provide evidence to support the case I’ve made. I did that but you haven’t provided anything to support your own assertions. Here’s the challenge, you wrote:

    “The facts are that changes in the understorey veg and leaf litter etc merely speed up or slow down the evaporation rate but they do not alter the fact that by mid-summer there is very little moisture left. ”

    I want you to provide a reference to research that definitively proves that the riparian strips, rainforests, elevated forests and wet sclerophyll forests that I contend act as natural buffers to bush fire do not contain enough moisture, or the necessary amount of moisture to inhibit the spread of bushfire in high summer.

    If you’re feeling brave, you might even include a reference to a paper or research that suggests these vegetation types benefit from fuel reduction burns.

    TimC, areas in Vic which had parts where fire intervals exceeded several hundred years – Otway Ranges, Central Highlands, Alps/Great Divide, Strzelecki Ranges, East Gippsland. The forest structure and composition as well as the hydrology, topography and elevation in certain forests within these regions meant that they were resistant to fire.

    When you clearfell in areas adjacent to and within such areas you dry out the microclimate and the subsequent regrowth is more susceptible to fire because of it’s physical structure and also, often, the change in species composition.

    Bruce shows a bit more insight in that he at least identifies different vegetation classes. The Gondwanic rainforest remnants in Vic are a sign of how much water is stored in undisturbed forest systems. While the government only recognises and protects the closed canopy rainforest in Victoria (about 15,000 ha, predominantly in riparian/linear situations which is one reason why they are disproportionately valuable as natural fire barriers), there would be another several hundred thousand hectares where the rainforest has emergent eucalypts or is the understory component of old growth forest. By any taxonomic definition, these are definitely rainforest.

  45. RWFOH September 6, 2009 at 12:18 am #

    The point about rainforest being that these species are fire sensitive and if they had been subject to short fire intervals they would have become locally extinct. If we introduce short fire intervals into their natural range through frb they will become extinct thus depriving forests of an element that suppresses and resists fire.

  46. Tim C September 6, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    RWFOH Im glad you agree that only a 30m space is all it takes for a fire to become “unstoppable”.
    I’m sure you did not mean in all situations of temperature, relative humidity, windspeed and fuel loading.

    The victorian Bushfires in which so many people lost their lives, is not quite your average scenerio of temperature, relative humidity, windspeed and fuel loading.

    What we need to do is to protect those who put food on your plate.

    This can be acheived while keeping some natural areas for asthetic and other purposes in parks with fuel reduced areas around them to safeguard as much as is possible, the people and the “reserved” patch.

    Unfortunately those who would have all native trees and bush worshipped, fail to see this, and will not accept a transition zone to acheive, to a great degree, both goals.
    This is where the real proplem is.

    As I said earlier, if areas have not been burnt for many years, but now (as you say) only do so because of a farmers cleared paddock set it off, then how do you explain that this would not occur before any development and fire fighting volunteers stopped the spread of fires from drier areas in the past with suitable driving forces like on BS?
    Its time to look at the big picture, not just small isolated pockets incorrectly extrapolated out into state wide scenerios.

    If the green movement were genuine and put their money where their mouth is, they would purchase all such land and maintain it with both a duty of care to the environment and to those involved with thier food production. They do not.

    As has been said before. “The only problem with socialism, is that eventually they run out of other peoples money”

    So RWFOH, whereas over 1/2 of my property is under heritage agreements, or fire trials or otherwise fenced for private conservation purposes, can I ask you straight. How much of your own wealth is invested in conservation that you speek so strongly about?

  47. Ian Mott September 6, 2009 at 10:55 am #

    Yet more sophist drivell by RWFOH. The overwhelming portion of Victorian forests are locked up in national park and are never subject to harvest. The lesser portion, in state forests, is available for harvesting but actual harvest only takes place on less than 1% of this lesser portion each year. So my statement, “The proportion of Victorian forest subjected to thinning and partial harvest is low. But that is a direct consequence of the misguided, and murderous mismanagement of those forests by the green movement. ” is absolutely correct.

    If only 1% of less than half the total forest area is thinned or harvested each year then it follows that 99.5% of the forest area is not thinned or harvested each year. And as the culpable greens have full control over national parks then the absence of thinning in their part of the forest is “a direct consequence” of their management.

    Yet, the clown yabbers on about clear felling as if it were a statistically significant part of the landscape. Even on a cumulative basis, this is not significant in fire management terms. The first ten years after a clearfall leaves a gap in the canopy and the young trees that have been regenerated on the site are not able to use up soil moisture as quickly as larger trees. So these areas form a mosaic of wetter spots in the forest landscape in which fire is retarded.

    Contrary to what RWFOH would like readers to believe, it is now the policy in victorian forestry to thin these regrowth stands to improve the growth of the retained trees. The trees removed are sold as wood chips. They are not giant “old growth” trees from untouched remnants, they are the bent and twisted stems that are removed so the straight stems can continue to thrive. A direct consequence of this mid-life culling is the extension of the wetter patch for another decade or more.

    Still, it is entirely understandable that people like RWFOH might have problems with the notion of culling the “bent and twisted”, being a bit too close to home. But there remains no market for bent boards and twisted houses and useful timber is best found in mature stems, not retarded ones, and certainly not severely burnt, dead ones.

    Riparian zones can occupy up to 25% of land area in high rainfall zones (ie 2000mm pa) but in lower rainfall zones like most of Victoria they are much less. And morons like RWFOH may be interested to learn that when cold winter hazard reduction burns take place the riparian zones are far too wet to burn at all. This clown is so far removed from reality on the ground that he seems incapable of distinguishing between hot and cold burns. So lets spell it out for him;

    Hazard reduction burns take place at a time of year when the ridges and slopes will only produce a gentle, managable burn. In the riparian zones, lower gullies and on south facing slopes where shadows extend, sunlight is indirect and growth is slower, evapotranspiration is also lower. And this means that these areas remain wetter for longer. And by the time these areas are dry enough to burn, it would be far too dangerous in the rest of the forest.

    But it is all a sloppy melange of half baked opinion in RWFOH’s mind. One minute he tells us that riparian zones and wetter forest areas are natural protection against hot summer wild fires and moments later he tells us they are under threat from cool hazard reduction burns that take place at a time of year (winter) when these zones will not burn at all.

    And note how he has singularly avoided comment on the very important role of retained charcoal from cold burns in boosting the moisture retention capacity, fertility, and carbon storage capacity of soils. Hot summer wild fires produce ash because the combustion is more complete. Cold winter fires produce less ash and more charcoal because the combustion is incomplete. And over a number of years this build up of charcoal and it’s moisture holding capacity can easily outweigh any minor evaporative changes from reduced leaf litter etc.

  48. RWFOH September 6, 2009 at 10:26 pm #

    What’s that Dotty, not up for my challenge? No surprises there, I’ve got you down as weak.

    And as for your new found infatuation with adding charcoal to soil as a means of counteracting the negative impacts of certain human activities, I think you’ll find no joy there either.

    Notwithstanding the fact that much of the biomass burned in frb ends up as ash (not only destroying the biological benefits of leaf litter but also permanently eliminating nutrients from the site) I think you’ll find your new vunderstuff has its limitations…

    “Tryon (1948) also studied the effect of charcoal on the percentage of available moisture in soils of different textures. Only in sandy soil did the addition of charcoal increase the available moisture (Table 3). In loamy soil, no changes were observed, and in clayey soil the available soil moisture even decreased with increasing coal additions, probably due to hydrophobicity of the charcoal. Therefore, improvements of soil water retention by charcoal additions may only be expected in coarse-textured soils or soils with large amounts of macropores”) (citing Tryon, EH, Effect of charcoal on certain physical, chemical, and biological properties of forest soils, 18 Ecological Monographs 81 1948)).”

    You also write that the “overwhelming portion of Victorian forests are locked up in national park and are never subject to harvest.”

    Less than 40% of Victoria’s forests are in National Parks and reserves and even the areas in reserves have no guarantee of permanent protection as the Vic gov has been known to arbitrarily change the tenure of areas previously declared SPZs and SMZs.

    It is worth noting that more than 60% of Victoria’s forest has been cleared since Europeans came here. So, when we talk about <40% being protected, we're really talking about 40% of 40% as a starting point!

    Another minor detail about our "reserves" is that they are not proportionally representative of pre-European ecological classes. I.E. the wet forests have been targeted by the timber industry and the dry/scrappy/stunted/previously logged forests etc have been included in the "reserves". Only 10% of our old growth forest still exists (the rest having been cleared or previously logged) and several % of that is still available for, and subject to clearfelling.

    So, the forests most valued by the timber industry also happens to be the forest that functions to naturally mitigate wildfire.

    Dotty might also be interested that it is no longer safe to burn a lot of the time in spring and autumn and the frb's that used to be carried out in those seasons are now carried out in winter. Where do we go next when winter frb becomes untenable? Virtually every frb lays foundation for future bushfires. The ad hoc approach to fr has become a vicious cycle whereby the more we indiscriminately burn, the more likely we are to burn involuntarily.

    TimC, I hate socialism too but only certain types of wealth redistribution. I particularly don't like the handouts, subsidies and tax breaks given to large corporations and the landed gentry. My view on socialism is that wealth should be taken from the rich and shared with the poor, not taken from the poor and concentrated with the rich. What do they say about capitalism, socialise the loss, privatise the profit?

    Have you done any work on your land using government funding? Any Landcare or Heritage funds perhaps?

    Not that I have a problem with people who own land just because they own land, that would make me a hypocrite. Over 99.5% of the land I own is purely dedicated to conservation and ecological restoration with absolutely no government handouts. When you get up around that mark, come out and play.

  49. Tom Melville September 7, 2009 at 10:17 am #

    RWFOH: Lets face it fella you know sod all. Its all in your head but none of it is connected.

  50. Tim C September 7, 2009 at 11:23 pm #


    No handouts for Heritage.
    No handouts for revege work.
    Some recent fencing was partially funded, the much greater portion was not, and was fenced 10 years before the “decade of landcare” had even started.
    Fire trials- no hand outs

    Fencing of scrubland, creeklines etc from livestock for conservation puposes is a huge additional cost, that many farmers bear because they want to pass the land on in the best order they can. Those with a small patch of scrub often do not have much fencing costs at all.

    The fencing is a direct out of pocket expense, and does not increase farm income, but reduces the area able to be farmed.

    If governments stop farmers from using potions of their land for farming, then why should the govt. not also pay all the costs of compensation, protecting and maintaining this comandeered property? Why should a farmer pay any further costs, for the regulations have already cost him the use of his land, for which he is not reimbursed?

    I wonder if people in the city get a payment if they lose some of the use of their land due to road widening or the like for community good????

    I do agree that sometimes, for the community good, some individual property or rights etc are removed, but just compensation should be borne by the community that receives the service and given to the person who provides that service. Would you expect anything less?

    Government subsidies do exist for some fencing works, and while this makes up approximately 1/3 of the costs, the remainder, along with inconvenience and ongoing maintanence is borne by the farmer.
    Consider the huge costs to fence either side of a creek (2 fences the length of the creek) loss of access to water, so further costs for livestock production, and what benefit to the financial affairs of the farmer???

    If a level playing field was enforced, then of course the additional costs for extra good environmental stewardship would be reflected in higher farm gate prices. As you would know this is not the case, as farmers in Australia compete against the next cheapest import, and importers are not required to concern themselves with such things as environmental costs or labour costs/abuses or other countries subsidies etc.

    Fortunately for those who do not grow food for themselves, the farmers also serve that fairly useful role in society.

    To belive it good enough to take from the “rich” and give to the “poor”, encourages bludging, so all take it easy, so all are poor.
    The goal of socialism by the elite few,is said to be the equal sharing of wealth, while the result of socialism is the equal distribution of poverty for the many.

    You say you hate socialism, but seem to support socialist values? Would other “less fortunate”
    people consider you to be rich and thus your “wealth should be taken from the rich and shared with the poor”?( your words) The problem with those who covert and think that “others” should have their rights restricted, is that they themselves then have no logical protection from other who would take away their own assets.

    When we lose the right to private property, we loose freedom as well.

    Of course there are people who see landowners as some sort of rich and undeserving bunch.
    Have you ever thought of all the “house boat holidays” and “spending the kids inheritence” that goes on, by those who only own a house (maybe a small scrub block) and a day job.
    Farms are usually inheritences, often still with debts, passed on by the sort of people who look to the future for their kids and are in farming for the long haul.

    Would you criticise a parent working to put a child through uni? Is it any different if this “degree” comes in the shape of land?

    Perhaps you should apply for a farm job for a while, you might well see a different side of life that you never knew existed!

    As you have 99.5% into conservation then you must not be farming to put food on Australians plates, as others do. Nor would you need to divide farmland fom the conservation area so the costs of internal stock fencing would not be required, perhaps your house makes up the remaining portion? Would that mean that you have cleared land within scrub?

    I cannot say that I have 99.5 % under conservation and have to be satisfied with only 50%.
    The remaining 50% is used to help feed the nation. I’m farming on considerably more than 50Ha so maybe the percentage game you play is less hectares of actual conservation eh?! Perhaps instead of “coming out to play”, you could come out to work like the producers of this country, for there is room for conservation and production!

  51. RWFOH September 8, 2009 at 12:51 am #

    I’ve done plenty of hard physical work and I’ve worked on farms Tim. Busting a gut was a pleasure compared to the whinging I had to put up with from one particular farmer I worked for. I’d be there at first light and had to listen to this Princess whinge all the way through to dusk. Of course I was doing all the heavy lifting while he sat on his fat @rse in the ute or on the tractor and sooked about how hard he had it. All the while he had a fantastic lifestyle on a magnificent property while he paid me peanuts and tortured me with his incessant whining…the government… bureaucrats… dole bludgers… do-gooders… red tape… imported product… tariffs… markets… prices… hippies… druggies… local council.

    I know, not all farmers are like him but every time I hear tales of the hard done by man-on-the-land I can’t help but think of that bloke. Don’t you hate stereotypes?

    The profit motive works. I don’t dispute that. I also believe in a fair go so that those who work harder deserve a proportional reward for their efforts. A share commensurate with their effort.

    That’s the nub of the matter, a “fair share”. I like the idea of the “Commonwealth”. The bounty of this land is our common wealth. To me, that implies we are all entitled to a fair share. Does it imply to you that whoever rigs the system to their own benefit should be entitled to grab as much as they can get their greedy hands on and then whinge if some of the commonwealth is shared amongst the people?

    I think rewards should be relative to the effort made. I can’t see how one person should earn US$702 million in one year while a factory worker here gets AU$600 per week and workers in many developing countries earn less than US$1 day for working long hours in horrendous conditions.

    Where’s the balance?

    Basically, I’m talking about variations around the theme of “Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor” whereby the so-called “level playing field” has become tilted toward “privatising profits and socialising losses.”

    We only need to look at the GFC to see where all this self serving debauchery ends up.

    I pay my taxes and hope that it gets spent on people who need it. For instance, I get really annoyed seeing the gov throw billions of taxpayer $ at pie-in-the-sky clean coal theory while for decades Australian pioneers and entrepreneurs of clean energy technology have been forced offshore by lack of support. And then some relaxed and comfortable pinch faced clown who is up to their necks in middle class handouts or corporate welfare arcs up because some unemployable bogan on the dole is made to paint rocks in the back of Woop Woop as part of some idiotic Green Corp environmental program.

    And that’s my gratuitous off topic rant. Now where were we?

    Oh yeah, even after taxpayer funds dry up, the balance a landowner spends on fences is a tax deduction, reveg/windbreaks etc should improve productivity, and, it will add to property value so don’t come over all sanctimonious about pious acts of public service.

  52. Tim C September 8, 2009 at 9:10 am #

    RWFOH. I’d like my farm to pay me $600 per week for only working 38 hours with penalty rates on additional hours, upon which my only costs are standard taxation.

    The money spent on protection fencing is 4 times that of the tax saved, so 3 times the tax paid, comes in addition directly out of the “take home pay”.
    And as for some far fetched idea of farms with additional environmental costs to be recouped on sale day, no, farms are bought and sold on productive income earning capacity, not as lifestyle blocks are traded for the “feel good” community.

    Its strange how often self appointed experts know more about the enterprise than the bloke actually running it and having the profit when good times come, the full time responsibility, and the loss when things go pear shaped.

    Regarding commonwealth, every member of Australia has the right to work to earn a farm or business, or parcel of land. It just seems some begrudge those that do.

    I congratulate you on putting some dough into conservation, but while thoughtfully chewing on gum leaves, I reccommend you take a bit more regard to the flour and butter that makes up your daily bread.

  53. Ian Mott September 8, 2009 at 2:30 pm #

    Not so fast RWFOH. According to FIA Vic the annual area of harvested NF amounts to only 0.12 of 1% of the 7.9 million hectares (about 9500ha). You have consistently implied that this was a major impact on a major part of the forest estate when the facts prove that it is not even statistically relevant. There is also 832,000 hectares of old growth, of which 96% is not available for harvest. Exposed for talking through your ass, again.

    And in addition to the area in National Parks and reserves, a large portion of State forests (ie riparian buffers etc) is not available for harvest under the regulations. This line of yours that the parks are not absolutely protected is pure bull$hit and you know it. There is no harvesting in parks and there is unlikely to be any in future.

    Your capacity to quote research without comprehending the information is breathtaking. It was never a question of which types of soils were improved with charcoal but, rather, of the range of conditions in which various types of soils are found, which ones will be enhanced by charcoal. Research that does not distinguish between soil types in various climates and conditions is not worth a pinch of proverbial. Will the addition of charcoal offset a loss of humus in any soil? Absolutely. Talking through your ass, again. You lament a loss of humus from soil due to cold burning but refuse to recognise that the loss of one type of soil carbon is offset by the addition of another, charcoal, which can restore moisture retention capacity.

    And spare us the guff about cold burns producing ash. Of course they do but the proportions of ash in cold burns are minor compared to ash from hot burns. And ash (potasium) is one of the three main nutrients (NPK). And it must be said, talking through your ass, yet again. The one eyed moron in the kingdom of the blind.

  54. Ian Mott September 8, 2009 at 2:55 pm #

    It should also be noted that the 60% of Victorian forests that RWFOH and his sinister green fellow travellers like to claim has been cleared is not at all what it seems. The are most favoured by settlers, and the forest cleared accordingly, was open woodland, not closed forest. Bateman’s description of the location of Melbourne mentioned widely spaced trees in a grassy meadow with visibility more than a mile.

    This landscape only just falls within the official definition of a forest, being slightly more than 10% canopy cover. A quick look at the rainfall distibution of the state and it soon becomes clear that most of the “forest” to the west of Melbourne was similar or even more open. The so-called “clearing” of this forest did not involve much habitat modification at all because the dominant fauna species were grassland species rather than arboreal ones. The result of this “clearing” was, in most cases, nothing more than a reduction from 10 trees/ha down to 5 trees/hectare which lowered canopy cover below that of the definition. Woodland birds still nested in those trees and fed their young on bugs and grubs from the grass. ‘Roos and stock still shaded under those trees when not eating the grass. And in fact, most of the actual tree removal was the removal of vigorous regrowth stems that came after aboriginal firestick farming ceased.

    The “forest” may have been officially cleared but the habitat remained much the same. Indeed, as Kangaroo populations confirm, the addition of watering points and the correction of nutrient deficiencies, combined with extended soil moisture reserves from reduced (grazed) leaf area, and the resulting extension of soil microbial activity, produced an enhanced woodland habitat that all wildlife were able to enjoy. It was only the arrival of feral predators that subsequently impacted on wildlife populations.

    But RWFOH and his twisted mates would never get their heads around all this because they are too full of ideological pus.

    Once again

  55. Right Wing Festival of Hate September 9, 2009 at 9:41 pm #

    TimC, you’re starting to sound like that bloke I mentioned.

    While you reckon $600 p/w sounds OK, could you have bought your land on that wage?

    How would you like to try supporting a family and paying a mortgage on that?

    And as for the costs of running a farm, you’re no different to millions of Australians. Investing in your business is a fact of life and if you run it into the ground you’ll pay the price. Like everyone else in the economy, (especially contractors, sub-contractors and tradies who live a precarious hand-to-mouth existence) we all face losing our homes if we lose our work.

    Farmers are no special case. Stop whinging and get on with it.

    So you think the FIA are a good independent source do you Dotty? Yeah, what would foresters want with access to public forests?

    Let’s dissect the spin:

    In 1869 (30 odd years after first Europeans), there was around 20 million ha of native forest. Today there is 7.7 million ha of native forest. That’s about 40% of original forest cover left.

    DSE’s figures , http://tinyurl.com/m63233

    Where did you get the figure of 832,000 ha of old growth forest in Victoria? That’s nearly 11% of our forest. If it’s accurate, it must include all the mallee and scrubby dry forests in the west of the state that are barely 5m in height.

    Using East Gippsland Forest Management Area as a case study (because it has large tracts of the relevant forest types and DSE info is readily available on their website)((my comments in double parenthesis)):

    1.22 million hectares land, of which

    87% is public land and 13% is privately owned

    630,000 hectares of State forest. ((Clearing of forest on private land still occurs))

    407,000 hectares (39% of public land) are used to produce sawlogs…

    224,000 hectares of old-growth forest

    83% of the total OG is protected in conservation reserves or areas excluded from harvesting in State forest ((disputed))I.E. 17% is available for logging, not 4%.

    ((This is where it gets muddy and you need to carefully analyse the information offered to pick up the deception.))

    Timber production is significant in eight of the 44 Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVCs), a minimum of 60% of old-growth is excluded from harvesting in each of these eight EVCs. ((40% of old growth available for logging))

    Of the remaining 36 EVCs, those with an old-growth component will have a minimum of 30% of that old-growth excluded from harvesting. ((70% of old growth available for logging))

    ((the timber wants to log coastal heathlands now? or are they looking at woodchipping stunted rain shadow old growth?))

    About 74% of the identified old-growth forest occurred in three ecological vegetation classes: Shrubby Dry Forest (88,000 hectares), Damp Forest (43,000 hectares) and Wet Forest (37,000 hectares).

    3.5% of forests on public land was found to be undisturbed; 47% was negligibly disturbed, and 43.5% was significantly disturbed.


    So, three EVCs account for 168,000 ha of 224,000 ha of old growth. We can safely assume that the timber industry is not targeting the dry forest so that leaves us with 90,000 ha of remnant wet and damp old growth. If the conservation target is 60% for these EVCs (although it could be as low as 30%) that means that 38,000 ha of old growth wet and damp forest is still available for logging. Planned logging of these two EVCs alone account for 17% of what’s left. And by logging we mean clearfelling with about 85% of the timber removed from site being used for woodchips.

    In the context of my argument, that these forests provide fire mitigation, logging these forests will make mega-fires both more likely and more dangerous. Such logging activities will also compromise the integrity of surviving old growth and leave them more vulnerable to future fire events. Ask Green Davey about Erdos’ theory of connectivity. He’d love to tell you how large tracts of fire resistant vegetation relates to fuel connectivity in the context of mega fires.

    You only need to look at recent and future wood utilisation plans to know that DSE and the timber industry are disproportionately targeting these old growth forests. DSE even admits about 95% of its annual cut is in mature and old growth forests. The foothill forests are clapped out and unhealthy. If the timber industry was operating on sustainable 80 year rotations they would be on second or third rotations of the regrowth. A lot of that forest was the low hanging fruit but looking at it now you’d wonder if it will ever recover so they’ve moved on to greener pastures.

    Already, much of that wet/damp forest at the higher elevations has already been plundered. We’re talking about what little is left.

    The Croajingolong National Park which stretches for about 100km along the coast had an extensive 100+ year history of logging before it became a park. When the industry has finished with one resource it simply moves on to the next.

    “The Department plans to log 35% of remaining old growth forests. (69)There is 37% of old growth forests outside conservation reserve(70) and only 52% which has
    secure protection. The remainder occurs Within other less secure zones such as
    SMZs and SPZB; (which can be logged or rezoned at any time). ” http://tinyurl.com/m34tdx

    SPZs, SMZs etc are not secure tenure. They are mickey mouse reserves or Claytons reserves. It’s all window dressing.

    “the Governor may, by notice published in the Gazette, revoke the declaration of any land as or as part of a special management zone and by that notice set apart the land as or as part of a flora reserve. ” (it doesn’t require an act of Parliament) http://tinyurl.com/m3j6e7


    The areas included in this zone cover a range of natural or cultural values, the protection or enhancement of which require modification to timber harvesting or other land-use practices rather than their exclusion.” DSE Website

    Dotty – “Research that does not distinguish between soil types in various climates and conditions is not worth a pinch of proverbial. ”

    So why did you introduce the topic? Bit of a “Gotchya!” moment that blew up in your face I reckon.

  56. Ian Mott September 10, 2009 at 9:44 am #

    Which part of 0.12 of 1% of the total forest estate do you not understand, moron? You are quoting 1997 data compiled for a political party and you want to be taken seriously?

    An annual harvest area of 0.12 of 1% is 1/833rd of the estate each year. You may dazzle your average metrobogan with your references to East Gippsland but informed readers will recognise how the volume of your cut and pastes increases as the relevance of them decreases.

    And you have conveniently forgotten that we got into this topic when you falsely claimed the native forest harvesting was drying out the forest and making it more incendiary. I provided detailed explanation, based on changes in leaf area index, why this is not the case. The decline in leaf area from harvesting, thinning and hazard reduction burning extends the duration of soil moisture so that retained trees are less exposed to moisture stress and are, therefore, less incendiary.

    And all you could do was throw up some 50 year old research that was not even relevant to the current circumstances. You claimed hazard reduction burns reduced humus and soil carbon in a way that seriously depleted soil moisture retention capacity. But your references only dealt with soils with full carbon profiles which did not respond to additional carbon in charcoal, not with temporarily depleted soils You have conspicuously avoided the fact that the additional charcoal from hazard reduction will offset any decline due to the burning of humus and moisture retention capacity will be maintained.

    I also provided evidence that the current area of harvesting was too small to constitute a relevant change in fire risk, even cumulatively. So despite the fact that your central conceit was proven incorrect, you continued with your bull$hit quotes of regulatory text in a vain hope of leading people to believe that vast areas of national parks were seriously at risk of being harvested. In the face of hard evidence that the harvested area was statistically insignificant, you tried to stooge readers into believing that it might become significant in future.

    And your complete failure to respond to the issue of woodland thinning being classified as “clearing” has been noted. A large part of historical clearing involved habitat modification, not habitat destruction. But your references to past clearing was always nothing more than a diversion from your faltering argument.

    Indeed, your entire string of posts on this thread have shown you to be nothing more than an articulate bimbo. You have access to sufficient data to justify a boorish sneer but you lack the knowledge to draw it together into a coherent understanding of the situation on the ground. And your incoherence and ignorance has now been shown to be aiding and abetting a murderous clique of incompetents.

  57. Tim C September 10, 2009 at 1:04 pm #

    RWFOH you obviously have an axe to grind. Isn’t it time to move on in life?

    Its acheivable to pay the mortgage and raise the kids contrary to what you think.
    You put in more hours, run the 60 year old wood stove for heating cooking and hot water, kill your own meat, run a garden and don’t go out to MacDonalds.
    None of it is free, but it does take being more observant and practical.

    I’m not too sure where you came from, the only people I know were all born a part of nature, and as such, do not need a glass wall between them and nature.

    I have mentioned the contribution to restoration of biodiversity that prescribed fires play, with an increase of 100 plant species in the officially supported fire trials . (50 species recorded prior to the trial and 150 afterwards). This is not hypothertical stuff but reality.

    I agree that there are horses for courses without doubt, and some areas will burn more often and some less often.

    The big problem is that those who have elected to take the stance than mankind should not have any influence on the present, fail to understand that change is natural, fail to understand that the sky will not fall in due to change, and in this case fail to understand that fires swept over the landscape on a more frequent, yet random basis.

    The huge costs in fuel reduction burning are impossible to justify over all native vegetation areas, nor are neccessary as mosaic burning (with wild fires taking out the rest),will acheive similar goals at reduced costs,… and will enable the restoration of declining biodiversity that has slipped under the radar of most environmantalists.

    Most people in society want to preserve some areas in a “pristine environment”, yet they fail to anderstand that change is a neccessary part of that pristine environment.

    Instead of just looking at the negatives , why don’t you become part of the big picture, and use your skills. Grab the historical fire maps for your area, and if there are none as is often the case, search out old arial photography and generate fire maps for public information.
    Get a fire trial going, and a botanist or two invloved as well.
    Make sure you have a govt. department in there as well, otherwise you will have inexperienced experts trying to tell you that you don’t have the scientific wherewithall and so won’t accept the facts. …Sorry my mistake, that will happen anyway!

    You may even suprise yourself and come up with some sound solutions.

    Best Regards

  58. RWFOH September 10, 2009 at 6:59 pm #

    The fraction or percentage logged each year is pretty much irrelevant if 95% of the logging is focused on the 3.5% of forest that is undisturbed because the forests previously “tended” aren’t worth your “pinch of proverbial” in terms of timber production capacity.

    What does it say about foresters if, after 200 years, they still need to practice (with practice being the operative word) their “profession” in previously unlogged forests?

    It tells me they’re bunch of clowns who wouldn’t know if their @rses were on fire.

    Then they’ve got the nerve to tell the public they log in sustainable 80 year rotations.

    “I provided detailed explanation, based on changes in leaf area index, why this is not the case.” writes Dotty.

    You’ve done no such thing you demented old fool. You did not provide any references to support your crazy theory. All the evidence suggests mature/old growth forests reach equilibrium in their water budget and act like sponges. Regrowth forests are actively transpiring and evaporating at accelerated rates and this is evidenced by the reduced water yield. That reduced run-off has been observed in countless studies and is obvious to any idiot who bothers to look at a Kuczera curve. That’s all real world scientific and technical measurement not the half baked rants and idiotic blathering of hicks.

    On charcoal in soil: “your references only dealt with soils with full carbon profiles”

    What do you mean that research only dealt with “full carbon profiles”? What a pathetic ploy on your part! You just invent and inject some complete nonsense. That’s just another expression of your dementia. You haven’t presented any research to support your case or refute the paper cited. As with all the points you contend you back them up with your own (unreferenced) incomprehensible gibberish.

    And “You have conspicuously avoided the fact that the additional charcoal from hazard reduction will offset any decline due to the burning of humus and moisture retention capacity will be maintained.” The negative effects of burning far outweigh any potential or marginal benefit charcoal MIGHT add IF the soil is macroporous. I can tell you now, virtually none of the BS fires burned on sandy soils. The research definitively shows that your proposition is categorically wrong. Got it yet dummy?

    “I also provided evidence that the current area of harvesting was too small to constitute a relevant change in fire risk, even cumulatively. ”

    Again, another lie. making it up as you go along. You provided no coherent theory let alone evidence to support it. You just pulled that out of your @rse in your reply. You’re an imbecile, a dunce, a cretin, a knucklehead, a peanut and possibly one of the most stupidly obstinate people I have ever come across. I can see why you like to call people sophists, it’s a raw projection of your own innate nature. Give it away, you’re a joke.

  59. Ian Mott September 11, 2009 at 1:25 pm #

    And as RWFOH is cornered, out comes the bile and spittle. The numbers are 0.12 of 1% of the total forest area is harvested each year. Funny how it is only yourself who needs a full published paper to confirm that such a small portion is, in fact, an insignificant impact. And as usual, you demonstrate your incapacity to argue in a logical sequence.

    At issue was your claim that forestry was drying out the forest estate and that this drying out was at a sufficiently meaningful level to alter fire behaviour. But all you have done in your first para above is to spin out into an entirely imaginary circumstance where you apparently believe that 95% of forest harvesting is taking place in 3.5% of the forest estate. And then you launch into an irrational attack on the forestry profession which has no bearing on whether 0.12 of 1% is, or is not, a statistically relevant portion.

    And then he falls back on the rudiments of catchment hydrology, using the Kuczera water yield curves like some sort of religious dogma and his quoting of it as some sort of badge of intellectual credibility. He clearly has minimal grasp of the whole science and no comprehension of the fact that adjustments in the composition of regrowth can adjust water use, and therefore water yield, beyond that produced by old growth.

    I will fry this particular fish on a seperate post as it is far too good to waste on the end of an off-page thread.

  60. RWFOH September 11, 2009 at 5:55 pm #

    One word to describe Spud Mott? Delusional.

  61. Ian Mott September 12, 2009 at 9:59 am #

    Just a hint, RWFOH, Kuczera curves have almost zero relevance to reality on the ground. The fact that you are still flogging them more than a decade after they were comprehensively falsified highlights both your ignorance and your manic devotion to murderous green ideology. But I’ll do you slowly, in a lead post.


  1. The Aussie bush fires - Page 10 - The Environment Site Forums - August 30, 2009

    […] […]

  2. Jennifer Marohasy » Nominate a Best Blog Post - December 14, 2009

    […] Warnings about Bushfire Warnings By Roger Underwood http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2009/08/warnings-about-bushfire-warnings/ […]

Website by 46digital