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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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environment

This election, vote for the mountains

Global temperatures have risen about 1C since 1900, overwhelmingly due to greenhouse gas emissions. In Australia, the average increase has been 1.4C. It has been linked to unprecedented bushfires, rainfall events that have caused catastrophic flooding and four mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef since 2016. Skiers and riders know that this has already had a negative impact on our snowpack, which has been in decline since the 1950s.

We know that national leadership on climate change has faltered under the Coalition. The federal election is an important opportunity to demand that all parties commit to decisive action to reduce emissions, and hence play our part in protecting winter.

Continue reading “This election, vote for the mountains”

More mountain forests at risk from logging

In February 2022, VicForests released its proposed 2022 Timber Release Plan (TRP). The TRP outlines the forest areas it intends to log. Community groups are able to submit submissions to the process, but TRPs are generally then ‘rubber stamped’ despite calls for specific high conservation areas to be protected. The comment period for the TRP has now closed.

While there were very significant forests in the Central Highlands and South Gippsland scheduled for logging (such as at Tanglefoot picnic ground in Toolangi, the Wallaby catchment in the Kinglake National Park, Snobs Creek Valley, a large coupe near Noojee, and 14 coupes between Cambarville and Matlock), there are also a number of areas proposed for logging in the high country.

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Forum: Threatened species and fire recovery

Upper Ovens Landcare are hosting a one day forum with the focus of ‘sharing stories from the Upper Ovens Valley’ about species recovery after fire. It will be held at  Dingo Dell, Mt Buffalo national park on Saturday 30 April 2022.

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Fires are getting worse. We need extra firefighting capacity to stop small ones becoming blazes

As we head towards winter, now is the time to think about next summer and the fires that may come after two wet, mild years. There are many things we need to do to be ready for the climate change driven fires of the future. Here is one of them: Victoria should set up a volunteer remote area firefighting team, which can work alongside the government paid fire crews. This would increase our capacity to stop lightning strikes from turning into massive blazes. It’s a good idea. It just needs a bit of political will and money to make it happen.

Continue reading “Fires are getting worse. We need extra firefighting capacity to stop small ones becoming blazes”

Alpine plants are on the move

We know that climate change poses an existential threat to the mountains that we know and love.

A new study, looking at 36 species of alpine plants, looks at one aspect of the changes that are already underway. It shows that ‘elevational shifts’ are occurring rapidly in the Australian alpine zone. Plants are moving higher (a number are also moving downslope) to find optimal conditions to grow. The authors of the report Alpine plants are on the move: Quantifying distribution shifts of Australian alpine plants through time say that ‘this may allow species to persist under climate change. However, if current warming trends continue, several species within the Australian alpine zone will likely run out of suitable habitat within a century’.

Continue reading “Alpine plants are on the move”

IPCC report points to collapse of Alpine Ash and Snowgum woodland

The IPCC WGII Sixth Assessment Report has just been released (and is available here).

The take home message is:

Further climate change is inevitable, with the rate and magnitude of impact largely dependent on the emission reduction pathways that we choose. Time is running out if we want to act.

The final sentence of new IPCC report is: “The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.”

The Chapter on Australasia (available here) has a considerable amount of detail on likely impacts on mountain areas of south eastern Australia and lutruwita/ Tasmania. Some of these are summarised below. It looks at both observed impacts and predicted future impacts (applying a level of certainty to each of these).

Continue reading “IPCC report points to collapse of Alpine Ash and Snowgum woodland”

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.”

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.

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Climate change & fire. The more we learn, the clearer it gets

Its mid November, just a couple of weeks until the start of winter in the northern hemisphere. After a horror summer of fires across the North of the planet, fires continue to threaten communities and landscapes in many areas. This week, mandatory evacuations were announced in the area of Estes Park in Colorado, as some ski resorts in that state prepare to open. The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office announced “evacuate the area immediately and as quickly as possible. Do not delay leaving to gather belongings or make efforts to protect your home or business.” Meanwhile, the city of Denver is getting close to its record for latest First Snow of the season. And after a summer of extreme weather, the north west of North America has been hit by massive floods.

What we do know is that climate change influences wildfire now. The evidence for this is so widespread and compelling that there is really no point in even trying to argue its not a real phenomena. Here is a quick recap of some of the most recent research into climate change and wildfire.

Continue reading “Climate change & fire. The more we learn, the clearer it gets”

Can ‘super seeds’ reduce the risk of local extinction of Alpine Ash?

Fire has always been a part of life here in Australia (well, at least for the last 60 million years). And as a result much of our vegetation is fire reliant or fire adapted. But climate change is changing fire seasons, making them longer and more intense. And this is having a terrible impact on many fire sensitive vegetation communities. The Alpine Ash is one of these.

After a series of fires in the early 21st century, the Victorian government had to intervene to ensure the survival of Alpine Ash communities through a ‘forest recovery program’ (source). Since 2002, more than 85% of the Alps bioregion has been burnt by several very large fires. Alpine Ash require around 20 years between intense fires in order for regrowth to be able to produce seed (source), and more frequent blazes are threatening the viability of this vegetation community across the Alps.

This restoration initiative has been an effective program which sources seed and then aerial sows areas which have been devasted by wildfire.

However, the program is being stretched by more regular fires and a review of the 2019/20 fires found that it doesn’t have enough seed stock to deal with bad fire seasons.

Now, Greening Australia and Minderoo Foundation have joined together to find ‘super seeds’ from the Alpine Ash which are suited to a changing climate.

Continue reading “Can ‘super seeds’ reduce the risk of local extinction of Alpine Ash?”

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