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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

Mountain Journal print edition #1 now available

The Mountain Journal website started back in the summer of 2010. Inspired by great magazines like Mountain Gazette, the plan had always been to produce a print version. But I never got around to it – until now!

The first print edition is hot off the press, and will be (covid lockdowns permitting) surfacing in cafes, mountain huts and public spaces across the Alps soon.

You can read the journal as a PDF here, but if you enjoy print, I can also post you a copy.

Continue reading “Mountain Journal print edition #1 now available”

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An Icon at Risk: current and emerging threats to the Victorian Alps

Snow Gums (Eucalyptus pauciflora) are the classic alpine tree of the High Country, generally growing at heights between 1,300 and 1,800 metres asl. Anyone who has visited the Australian High Country will know – and probably love – these trees.

In recent decades, wildfire has been devastating huge areas of the Snow Gum forests, with significant fires in the Victorian High Country in 1998, 2002/3, 2006/7, 2013 and 2019/20. More than 90% of Snow Gum habitat has been burnt at least once in the last 20 years.

The species can survive fire. However, climate change driven fire seasons are leading to more frequent fire, which is causing more death of trees and changes to forest structure. In some instances, localised collapse of Snow Gum woodlands is now being observed. As climate scientist Michael Mann describes it, we are now seeing climate change play out in real time.

We must ask whether we are now seeing the start of the collapse of Snow Gum woodlands, one of Victoria’s iconic vegetation communities.

Continue reading “An Icon at Risk: current and emerging threats to the Victorian Alps”
Featured post

Firefighters demand climate action

Bushfires are becoming more frequent and the bushfire season is coming earlier and lasting longer because of climate change.

These longer fire seasons in Australia are not “normal”. They are being driven by human induced global heating (climate change). Unless we act now to reduce our emissions in line with what climate science suggests, we will become locked in to ever worsening fire seasons. We know that climate driven fires pose an extreme threat to mountain environments like Alpine Ash and Snow Gums.

The Australian Firefighters Climate Alliance (AFCA) has launched a new campaign, asking firefighters to post an image of themselves on a fireground, and demanding the Austrtalian government act on climate change.

Continue reading “Firefighters demand climate action”

Time is running out for mountain woodlands

It is worth going back to a report from 2020 that shows the impacts of fire in Victoria. Most of the area burned in the summer of 2019/20 is in mixed-species eucalypt forests, which are common throughout eastern Victoria, and which can recover well from fire.

But the fires also burnt forest types of more limited distribution including banksia woodlands, warm temperate rainforests, and mountain communities including alpine ash forests and snow gum woodlands.

Continue reading “Time is running out for mountain woodlands”

The strange land of 12 Mile Hill

The Dargo High Plains, in Victoria’s High Country, and surrounding ranges are facing an onslaught of logging activity. It is well beyond the sealed road network and out of sight for most people. Lisa Roberts reports on a recent trip to this remote mountain country.

‘We watched the mist come out of the forest over the hill and race across the cleared smashed country and fall when it reached the trees on the other side. Up here, the trees call in the clouds and the clouds drop into the trees and this is where the water comes from’.

Continue reading “The strange land of 12 Mile Hill”

New year, old issues 

As we move into a new year, things are looking good in the mountains. A second mild and wet spring has led to a mild summer, with no significant fires in mountain areas so far (there were two fires in lutruwita/ Tasmania earlier in the season – at Mt Rufus and the Eldon Range). As heatwaves bake much of the north and west of the continent, the mountains of the south east and lutruwita/ Tasmania are a cool refuge from the heat. As always there is so much to do and wonderful places to visit. And, as always, there are threats to the mountains that we will have to deal with this year.

Here’s some of them:

Continue reading “New year, old issues “

Alpine and Mountain Ash face potential declines in a warmer and drier future.

We know that the Alpine Ash forests are struggling to survive in the face of climate change driven fire regimes that are bringing fire into these forests more frequently.

The scale of this threat is so extreme that the Victorian government has a program specifically responsible for reseeding forests that are on the verge of ecosystem collapse.

New research underscores, yet again, that the mountain forests face grave threats from climate change and that this could lead to the transformation of these forests.

Continue reading “Alpine and Mountain Ash face potential declines in a warmer and drier future.”

Fires in Tasmanian World Heritage Areas

Back in 2019, Tasmania/ lutruwita was badly impacted by wildfires (check here for a diary of those fires). With much of south eastern Australia experiencing a La Nina mild summer, the forecast is for a ‘mild’ season across most of the south east.

But following lightning storms over the weekend of December 18 and 19, 2021, a number of fires have started in remote World Heritage Areas in Tasmania/ lutruwita. It has been noted that since the year 2000, there has been an increase in the number of lightning-caused fires and an increase in the average size of the fires in Tasmania, “resulting in a marked increase in the area burnt”.

This page will track significant fires on public lands in Tasmania during the summer of 2021/22.

Continue reading “Fires in Tasmanian World Heritage Areas”

Snow Gum citizen science field trip – January 2022

Snow Gums face a massive threat from the spread of dieback which is caused by a native beetle – and also super charged by climate change, and localised collapse of snow gum woodlands due to more frequent fires.

Last winter Friends of the Earth (FoE) published An Icon at Risk, which considers the many threats to the mountains of north east Victoria (the report is available here).

FoE will be hosting a field trip to map impacts of fire over four days in January 2022 in the Mt Hotham region.

Continue reading “Snow Gum citizen science field trip – January 2022”

International Mountain Day 2021

December 11 is International Mountain Day.

Around the world, mountain environments are threatened by climate change and destruction of natural environments. It is the same here in Australia, where we are starting to see the local collapse of mountain forests – both Alpine Ash and Snow Gum – due to climate driven fire regimes (and, in the case of Snow Gum, dieback caused by a native beetle).

There is much we must do to protect these wonderful environments, including building our capacity to fight fires effectively in mountain areas.

Here are some ideas.

And please join the citizen science project if you’re planning on visiting the VIC/ACT/ NSW mountains this summer.

#MountainsMatter

Help identify and report Snow Gum dieback

Snow gums are experiencing dieback in Kosciuszko National Park, largely because of the impacts of the native longicorn (or ‘longhorn’) beetle. These beetles prefer to lay their eggs on moisture-stressed trees and, in warmer weather, the longicorn beetle can hatch and grow up to 75% faster. It is understood that climate change is helping the spread of dieback because of background warming.

Now dieback is being seen more frequently in the mountain forests of Victoria.

Jessica Ward-Jones, a PhD student at the Fenner school, is part of a group researching snow-gum dieback, and is asking for people visiting the mountains to send in details of sightings of dieback affected trees.

Continue reading “Help identify and report Snow Gum dieback”

‘The places humanity must not destroy to avoid climate chaos’

Detailed new mapping has pinpointed the carbon-rich forests and peatlands that humanity cannot afford to destroy if climate catastrophe is to be avoided.

The vast forests and peatlands of Russia, Canada and the US are vital, researchers found, as are tropical forests in the Amazon, the Congo and south-east Asia. Peat bogs in the UK and mangrove swamps and eucalyptus forests in Australia are also on the list.

This highlights the need to protect the carbon dense forests of south eastern Australia which are still being subjected to clearfell logging.

Continue reading “‘The places humanity must not destroy to avoid climate chaos’”

Climate change and rise of the ‘mega fire’

Recent research by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, shows that climate change has driven a ‘significant increase’ in Australia’s forest fire activity over the last three decades.

A lengthening of the fire season towards Autumn and Winter were also identified, along with an increase in fire activity in cooler and warmer regions including alpine forests in Tasmania and tropical rainforests in Queensland.

This is not really ‘new’ news. The impacts of climate change in terms of length of fire season and intensity of fire is well documented (for instance, the head of the firefighting agency for Victoria’s public lands, Chris Hardman, notes that there has been a 170% increase in bushfire ignitions over the last 50 years, a 20% reduction in spring rainfall, and a 40% increase in very high and severe fire risk days.

What is especially interesting is that this research, which was published in Nature Communications is the first of its kind in that it combines analysis of previous forest fire sites with eight ‘drivers’ of fire activity including climate, fuel accumulation, ignition and management (prescribed burning).

Continue reading “Climate change and rise of the ‘mega fire’”

Parks Victoria Hawkweed program – summer 2021/22

This summer, Parks Victoria (PV) will continue its volunteer program which is working on eradicating the invasive Hawkweed from the Bogong High Plains.

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

PV have now added some volunteering dates for this summer. There will be four one day sessions available on the following dates;

Friday 7th January, 2022

Friday 14th January, 2022

Friday 21st January, 2022

Friday 28th January, 2022

Continue reading “Parks Victoria Hawkweed program – summer 2021/22”

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