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.