I’ve been staying with friends who live on the Murray River in western New South Wales and I’ve seen a lot of river red gums – beautiful old habitat trees, thickets of young saplings, healthy forests, water-stressed forests, bushfire- damaged forests, trees ready to be made into railway sleepers, others into veneer.
Many of the forests are suffering from the drought. While some activists claim the solution is more environmental flow water allocation, this is unlikely until the drought breaks. In the meantime some believe some forests can be ‘drought proofed’ through thinning.
In the following picture the density of red gums has been reduced through a thinning operation on private land. On the other side of the fenceline the trees have not been thinned.
Koondrook Forest, 3rd November 2007
Habitat tree clearly marked for saving.
A recent Victorian Environmental Advisory Council (VEAC) report proposes that more red gum forest along the Murray River be converted to national park – this time about 100,000 hectares.
The report states that many forests are severely stressed and that there is evidence that without improved environmental flows many of these forests may be lost over time.
But locking them up as national parks may only exacerbate the situation. Indeed what many forests appear to need now is thinning, to reduce competition for water between trees.
Some of the forests along the Murray River in the best condition right now are the more actively managed forests – with lower tree densities from thinning as well as forests that received environmental flow allocations in the last few years.
Ian Mott says
The only way a fully stocked stand of small trees can become a stand of big trees is through the death or removal of most of those trees.
Note how the large “habitat tree” has few small trees near it. A larger tree occupies a larger area, not a difficult concept to grasp. But one that seems quite beyond such groups as “Doctors for Forests” etc.
Adjusting plant density to match water availability is also hardly a new science. The Romans formally introduced the notion to Britain 2000 years ago but the recognition of the need for appropriate spacing in healthy forests was already in evidence by that time.
The bigger question is, what do the green “environmental (titter titter) guardians” (guuffaaaw), plan to do about their claimed altered climate and the resulting implications for tree density in the forests they have already taken from local communities.
Nothing puts a forest in stress like management incompetence and neglect.
That’s going to take public servents and taxes to manage forests. Even then, when you thin the forests, you change the ecology of the area.
Green Davey Gam Esq. says
How did all these ecosystems survive and evolve before we Euros turned up?
But not denying Ian’s point either that obviously we can change soil water availability by changing cover. The Murray is now so heavily modified that we probably have no option other than to intervene.
I’ve often wondered what the consequences of tree thinning would be in spindly new growth forests. If it shortens the time it takes for trees to develop the hollows required by so many animals for habitat it may be a good thing.
i’ve been reading this ‘blog’ for some time now and have only just realised how much of a ****** ian really is… a little slow on the uptake yes i admit…is this guy for real?
“Adjusting plant density to match water availability is also hardly a new science”
what planet are you on fella?!
the ecosystem you are talking about is a “floodplain” not a freakin red gum plantation.
the science? forestry perhaps…ecology- perhaps not.
also more than a little suprised (and disappointed) at luke rolling over so easily on this one… giving up on one of the most amazing floodplains on earth because we can’t get water infrustructure priorities right in this country- surely we’re smarter than this…
Spackler – you may or may not have noticed that I have previously posted on the Theiss River Prize being awarded to NSW Murray Wetlands Working Group arranging environmental flows in a drought, and was wounded in action in a fesity shoot-out on the statistics of Red Gum mortality along the river.
The issue is that the Murray River system is heavily modified already and limitations on water availability allocated between irrigation interests and the environment. However without the dams and weirs the river would be a chain of ponds by now i.e. dry ! So the gums would still be in a poor state. So I concede there “may” be some utility in intervention in some forests. The utility being keeping more trees alive than otherwise would be the case. So I’m prepared to hear the argument.
So sorry to sell out but the “grant” from Exxon was convincing.
The argument with Mottsa of course is usually delivered with steel cap boots and rivers of neo-raphaelite rhetorical drivel. You could paper your living room with it. Vogon poetry is much better …http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogon_poetry
Of course he’s a bit of a redneck pseudo-intellectual tosser but could you script the archetypal property rights activist and raconteur any other way? And is it perverse to look forward to a daily ream out with the wire brush and Dettol.
spackler! may we ask in return “what planet are you on fella?”
People noticed that thinning out vegetation will encourage more vigorous growth of the remaining plants, be it corn or trees, whether it is a natural forest or a plantation, is of no consecvence.
i’m afriad i missed the great theiss river prize debate…
a lapsed moment perhaps in feeling compelled to respond to ian’s cheap shot(s)- i do notice you have many of these but remain mostly amused by the exchange…part of the reason i tune in.
a topic dear to me that so often gets misrepresented by the marohasy’s of this world. the red gums of our murray floodplain have indeed seen dry times before (probably drier than now) but with intervening floods…and flows when it rains (god forbid). what irks me most is that these people seem to forget how we reached this parlous state and want to somehow “manage” the situation with unimaginitive and expensive engineering solutions.
i resolve not to be sucked in by this again and will resume my role as an occasional onlooker of an otherwise mediocre exchange of ideas….phew
nice one marcus25. you are very right.
i rest my case.
dry rot to the lot of you, I’m off to to the river bed.
Green Davey Gam Esq. says
spankler where’s the logic – humans have been manipulating the red gum system for 50,000 years – what era do you want to return to? Pre european, pre aboriginal – where does your life style fit into this continum? You are here in this present along with your fellow humans you and they are not going away any time soon and you and they have an effect on ecosystems simply through living. How do you propose to manage the effects that you and your fellow humans have on any ecosystem they interact with?
I’ve written something more on thinning red gums in the Barmah forest here: http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/archives/002548.html
Just filing this here:
River Red Gum Forests Dying – Government Report
14 April 2005
A report released today by three State-Governments (Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia) has identified a drastic increase in dying red gum trees along hundreds of kilometers of the Murray River and confirms an ecological crisis in these forests.
“The Bracks Government must act quickly and to stop logging in redgum forests. The result of the Bracks government’s Victorian Environment Assessment Commission (VEAC) investigation into these forests isn’t due until 2007,” said Spokesperson Richard Hughes.
“The report by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission shows that these iconic forests don’t have that much time.”
The report reveals the rapid decline in forest health, with the number of stressed dead or dying trees increasing from 51% in 2002 to 75% in 2004 in just the last two years. These deaths are believed to be linked to changed river flows and salinity, with logging a massive additional stress.
“These iconic forests need to be protected, not logged needlessly for low value products such as railway sleepers.”
“Red Gum forests are a haven for wildlife, wildflowers, waterbirds and are habitat for the majority of threatened species in northern Victoria and southern NSW. Threatened species including the Masked owl, Squirrel glider and Murray cod depend on Red Gum wetlands for their survival. Redgum wetlands are also highly valued for recreation – fishing, camping, bushwalking, boating.”
Ian Mott says
Gosh, I go down to tend my man-made native forest (my other planet) for a few days and the cyber-bowels, made regular by a diet of urban ignorance and rough justice, produce some sort of Spackler. And in my absence it sits there, dominating the thread with it’s fettid presence.
And for what? An ample demonstration that an urban boofhead only needs a 4% grasp of an issue to justify the indiscriminant use of his sneer.
The only thing missing was a quote from Daffy Duck.
Another pertinent issue is this: do dead redgums produce hollows at a faster rate than living redgums? If so the death of some old trees would not be all bad news.
Ian Mott says
No, a more pertinent issue is, can the forest owner, using the full suite of woodsmans crafts and technology, produce more hollows, as they are actually needed, and to a standard and quality more desired by the wildlife themselves, at a lower cost than this moronic requirement to sit and watch, for 60 to 120 years while perfectly good sawlogs decay sufficiently to a point where they MIGHT deliver a nest hollow.
The lesson from Honey Bees is that mankind has known, for more than 3000 years, how to build an artificial nest that this forest dwelling species will prefer over its “natural” alternatives. Whenever a wild swarm is placed in a conventional Bee box they very rarely leave. This is because most of the key elements they seek are present at a higher standard than what is available from the random outcomes of nature.
Indeed, they will even compromise on one key attribute of natural hive sites for the sake of superior standards for other attributes. In nature, Bees favour hive sites well above ground as protection from predators like frogs etc. But the other values they gain from an artificial box clearly outweigh any adverse impacts from the hive being close to the ground.
And the willingness of both possums and gliders to nest in house roofs, sheds and numerous man made shelters whenever they are available is testimony to the potential for delivering superior habitat services to other forest dwelling species by artificial means.
The standard official spin on this issue is that surveys show a fairly limited propensity on the part of forest dwelling species to use man made shelters. But that is only because the surveys have nearly always been conducted in locations where man made options are not present. So the surveys could show no other result.
But the fact is that when such options are available, and those options provide superior values to natural alternatives, the wildlife vote with their feet in favour of man made solutions. The real crime is that the current prescriptions preclude any prospect of us ever discovering just how much better these services can be delivered by active innovation by the forest owner.
There is not the slightest doubt that animal density can be at least quadrupled by simple, low cost management interventions that improve nutrition, enhance survivability and reduce the severity of climatic impacts on biodiversity. But there are none so blind as green ideologues who will not see.