For years now, Mountain Journal has posted about the multiple threats posed to our mountain environments which link back to climate change, including increased frequency of fire, higher temperatures, more frequent drought, and more impact from dieback (which is a natural phenomenon which is being super charged by global heating). These have also been documented in the Friends of the Earth report An Icon at Risk.

Its always good to see mainstream news coverage of these threats.

Genelle Weule, writing for ABC Science, has written an indepth piece which covers these threats.

As has been noted in earlier reports,

  • climate change is already impacting on snow gums
  • as temperatures warm, these trees are being threatened by drought, fire and disease.
  • with limited areas of higher mountains in Australia, there is no where for snow gums to go. Even worse “The challenge is they can’t really go down the mountain, because they can’t compete with the faster-growing, taller species that will overshadow them, and they’ve only got a relatively small range to be able to move up the mountain into more suitable conditions as the climate changes,” Dr Camac, an ecologist from the University of Melbourne, says.
  • as the frequency and intensity of fires increases, older trees are less likely to survive.
  • additionally, the Phoracantha beetle has infested snow gums living in high elevations above 1,600 metres, right across the Alps from Victoria to the ACT, causing dieback

One of the problems of the dieback is that there is no landscape scale treatment available. One of the responses suggested in this story is a proposal to trial planting lower sub-species of snow gums that are not currently affected by the beetle into the ranges of the higher elevation sub-species.

Friends of the Earth has identified a range of options to respond to the threats faced by snow gums and a letter to the Victorian environment minister urging her to act on these recommendations can be found here.

Sense of place, sense of loss

The story also considers the personal impacts of the changes that are already underway. As noted,

For people who have spent most of their lives in the mountains like Professor Brookhouse, these changes have a deep impact.

“When you have a strong connection to a place and it’s altered …  part of your identity that’s very much tied to your home and those places is lost in that moment,” he says.

Many of us feel these changes deeply. Author Jonica Newby wrote about this in her book Beyond Climate Grief. Many people feel it as the watch the mountains change. For me, seeing snow gum forests that I loved burn, yet again, was what motivated me to join the CFA as a volunteer firefighter.

For me, action is always the antidote to despair. But somedays it is hard to shake the sadness that comes from paying attention to places you love.